Missouri reported its second highest daily total for COVID-19 cases Tuesday, with 4,256 new infections, just an hour before the state health director began a report to lawmakers on the status of the virus’ spread in the state.
The Department of Health and Senior Services also found 138 previously unreported COVID-19 deaths in reviews of death certificates, the seventh time since late September that those reviews resulted in an abnormal daily death tally.
The department reported a total of 146 deaths on Tuesday and 3,299 have died of COVID-19 since the first death was reported in March. Of the newly reported deaths, three occurred in September, 123 occurred in October and 12 occurred earlier this month, the department stated in a news release. The reviews, which previously occurred on Fridays and were reported on Saturdays, will now be done on Mondays with reporting on Tuesdays, the department stated.
As he began his testimony to the Special Committee on Disease Control and Prevention, Health Director Randall Williams discussed the timeline for a vaccine developed by Pfizer that is will be the first to be considered for an Emergency Use Authorization by the FDA.
One of the biggest obstacles to an effective vaccination campaign, Williams said, was that about 50 percent of the public may be unwilling to take the two shots needed to create immunity.
The first people to receive it will be health care workers, followed by first responders and people living in long-term care facilities. The general public will receive the vaccine after priority groups.
“We anticipate it will be April before we begin doing vaccinations throughout the state,” Williams said.
Every indicator reported by the department shows the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 is spreading unchecked in the state. The 4,256 cases reported Tuesday is the second-highest daily total and the third time in four days with more than 4,000 new cases.
The seven-day average of reported cases stood at 3,753 per day on Tuesday, up 1,224 since last Tuesday. And on Tuesday, there was at least one new case in 116 of 117 local health jurisdictions, with only Worth County, with 2,013 people, not showing a new infection.
In the past seven days, the highest per capita infection rates continue to be seen in rural counties. The highest rates are in Perry and Moniteau counties and only two counties, Cole and St. Francois, with populations greater than 50,000 among the highest 20 infection rates.
Hospitals in the stat continue to fill with COVID-19 patients, with preliminary figures for Monday showing 2,146 inpatients, the highest number yet reported and up more than 500 from a week earlier.
In Columbia, Boone Hospital Center has filled a special COVID-19 unit created in September, started using other beds and is considering cutting back on elective procedures to conserve bed space, KMIZ television reported. Boone Hospital is managed by BJC HealthCare, which announced last week it would delay elective procedures at its St. Louis hospitals.
The rapidly increasing case numbers is forcing many school districts that opened with students receiving instruction in classrooms to switch to online instruction.
The Moberly School District in Randolph County on Tuesday switched to virtual learning and will continue online until after Thanksgiving. Randolph County has added 144 cases since Oct. 31 and the letter to parents cited increasing numbers of staff in quarantine.
In adjacent Audrain County, the Mexico School District will switch to online instruction on Monday and continue with virtual education until at least Nov. 30. Audrain County has reported 124 new cases so far this month.
“We have seen significant and sustained increases in positive COVID-19 cases within our county and district,” the message signed by Superintendent Tammy Lupardus wrote.