Nearly new 1,000 COVID-19 cases reported by health department | Local News

Sidney Hammer

More COVID-19 cases were reported in Franklin County this week than any other week of the pandemic. There were 988 new confirmed cases in the county from Jan. 8-14, according to a weekly update from the Franklin County Health Department.  That’s an average of 141 people per day, which is […]

More COVID-19 cases were reported in Franklin County this week than any other week of the pandemic.

There were 988 new confirmed cases in the county from Jan. 8-14, according to a weekly update from the Franklin County Health Department. 

That’s an average of 141 people per day, which is the highest average the health department has reported since the pandemic began, according to Missourian archives.

The caseload has been climbing quickly in the past few weeks. Last week, 690 people were reported positive for COVID-19, and the week before that, 452 cases were reported. 

To date, there have been 17,008 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the county with an additional 4,420 cases categorized as probable.

The confirmed COVID-19 death toll in the county stands at 238, with an additional 39 deaths listed as probable. No new COVID-19 deaths were reported this week. It can often take the health department weeks or months to verify cause of death, so any deaths occurring this past week will be reported in weeks to come. 

This latest wave of COVID-19 cases is being driven by the highly contagious omicron variant, which was first identified in Franklin County in late December.

“What is perhaps more concerning than this number itself is the fact that it’s just the tip of the iceberg,” said Dr. Ann-Elizabeth Mohart, chief medical officer at Mercy Hospital Washington.

Mohart thinks that 988 is an undercount. She said because testing supplies have been so tight across the St. Louis region and across the U.S., many people who have been infected with COVID-19 likely didn’t get a test.

The testing positivity rate — the percentage of CVOID-19 tests that came back positive — in the county was 28.4 percent this week, which is up from 24.6 percent reported last week, according to the health department. That means that more than one of every four PCR or antigen tests administered in the county came back positive. Mohart said that number is “proof” that COVID-19 cases are being under counted.

The shortage of tests has Mercy being very selective with their testing. Those at the highest risk, people with severe symptoms and people about to undergo surgery or a procedure top the list, she said.

While this latest count is the most cases the county has seen, Mohart said that a panel of Mercy epidemiologists predicts that the current wave won’t peak until sometime between Jan. 27 and Feb. 4.

Mohart, as well as other health care providers across the country, are concerned about how hospitals will be able to manage this influx of new patients.

“It’s hitting every single one of our hospitals (in the St. Louis region) at a very rapid rate,” she said. “That is the sort of scenario that a health care system never wants to encounter. 

“That sort of phenomenon has the capability of really taking down the health care system and every component of it,” Mohart said. 

Currently 98 percent of ICU beds at Mercy Hospital Washington, the county’s largest hospital, are being used, Mohart said. She said Mercy’s ICU occupancy has been hovering between 98 to 100 percent since Thanksgiving. She said the hospital has 27 COVID-19 patients as of Friday morning.

The county health department reported that 12 patients were hospitalized for COVID-19, but that number, unlike Mercy’s, doesn’t include patients from outside the county or those who are no longer contagious from the virus, but are still suffering symptoms.

“We will maybe have one bed open for a short period of time, but then that fills right away,” Mohart said. 

She said this COVID-19 wave could affect hospitals’ ability to take care of non-COVID-19 patients.

“If somebody falls and breaks their hip, if they get into a car accident, if they have a heart attack,” she said, “the reality is that for the first time in America, the health system may not be able to manage those patients to the full extent that we normally do.”

She said Mercy Hospital Washington leaders meet every day to plan for that situation.

Meanwhile, 50.6 percent of Franklin County residents are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, and 50.6 percent have received at least one dose, according to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. Statewide, 54.5 percent of Missourians are fully vaccinated, and 61.7 percent have received at least one dose, according to DHSS.

Mohart highly recommends people get vaccinated, receive booster shots, wear masks and avoid large crowds.

“The simple gesture of wearing a mask will save a human life,” she said. “Every person can do their part to keep our health system functioning.”


https://www.emissourian.com/local_news/nearly-new-1-000-covid-19-cases-reported-by-health-department/article_64b6c4e0-78bf-11ec-a71f-8f0188595101.html

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