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Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Garza: St. Louis On 'Dangerous Slope' of COVID-19 Cases

Posted By on Wed, Dec 15, 2021 at 1:40 PM

click to enlarge St. Louis could be in for a brutal winter with a COVID-19 surge. - VIA FLICKR / YOUNG SHANAHAN

Dr. Alexander Garza of the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force said St. Louis is “losing ground” in the fight against COVID-19 during a briefing yesterday.

Joined by Dr. Clay Dunagan, Garza gave his first briefing since leaving to serve on a deployment to Kuwait as an Army physician. Now back in St. Louis, Garza said the number of hospitalizations due to COVID-19 is increasing, as well as the number of people in ICUs and on ventilators. He added that the rate of people getting vaccinated is not increasing, leaving room for worry as the winter season begins.

“As a region, we’re really moving in the wrong direction,” Garza said. “The virus is winning this round because of that highly contagious Delta variant.”

Hospitalization data look similar to the worst of the delta variant-driven summer surge numbers, with 43 people a day being admitted daily, amounting to a moving average of 502 patients currently admitted to the hospital.

Hospital leaders say if the trend continues, hospitalizations could pass the numbers seen last winter. The number is still on the rise, with Garza warning about both the delta variant and possible issues with the omicron variant.

Hospitalization data show the unvaccinated currently make up 77 percent of the patients hospitalized.

“These surges are really being driven by the unvaccinated,” Dunagan said. “This data is also showing us that being vaccinated also protects you tremendously from ending up in the hospital.”

He added that those who are vaccinated and in the hospital with COVID-19 tend to have underlying issues, like being elderly or immunocompromised.

Deaths are also on the rise for COVID-19 patients, with Dunagan saying that nearly 60 people a week are dying from COVID-19 in the St. Louis area. Task force leaders say the death rate is lower than past surges because those with a higher risk of dying from COVID-19 have gotten their vaccine.

Pediatric numbers are also high, with 21 kids as of Tuesday currently hospitalized and three in the ICU — numbers the area hasn’t seen since mid-September. Dunagan said that what they know about the omicron variant suggests it can spread to children, but they don’t know if it is more or less infectious than delta, and he sees it as a potential problem in the coming days amid holiday gatherings.

Garza also showed a routine graph of COVID-19 inpatient projections during the briefing, and he said the slope is rising fast after being updated last week.

click to enlarge A projection graph of COVID-19 inpatients. - COURTESY  FACEBOOK LIVE / ST. LOUIS METROPOLITAN PANDEMIC TASK FORCE

“I wish I could say things looked promising,” Garza said. “But, we’re on a very dangerous slope now. If the virus continues to circulate like it currently is in our community and if we can’t decrease the number of new people being infected, then this model will predict that these numbers will continue to climb, that we will see more and more people admitted to the hospital. If you follow the model out for the next couple of weeks you’ll see that we’ll reach a peak that is equivalent to last year in our worst-case scenario by the first week of January.”

Follow Jenna on Twitter at @writesjenna. Email the author at [email protected]
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