News Briefs

Missouri COVID cases peaking at end of worst month for cases, reported deaths

By: - October 30, 2020 10:03 am

The seven-day positive rate on PCR tests, the ones with long swabs that are sent to labs for analysis, stood at 8.8 percent on Thursday, down from a peak of 15.2 percent in early August. Hospitalizations, which exceeded 2,450 inpatients in the third week of August, were down by one-third by Thursday (image courtesy of CDC).

A late Thursday report with a record 3,061 new COVID-19 cases was followed Friday by the second-highest single day total as Missouri nears the end of the worst month of the coronavirus pandemic for new cases and reported deaths.

Hospitalizations are at a peak and rising, with St. Louis leaders reporting a “heartbreaking” new high of 72 hospitalizations on Tuesday and the Department of Health and Human Services reporting 1,612 total inpatients around the state, 75 more than on any previous day.

The 2,507 new cases Friday brought the state’s total since March to 180,200, with 54,807 of those cases reported during October. That is an average of 1,803 cases per day for the first 30 days of the month, 423 higher than any previous full month.

The worst outbreaks of new cases during October have been in rural parts of the state. Of the 30 counties with the highest per-capita infection rates for the month, only one, Cole County, has more than 50,000 residents. Of the 20 counties with the lowest infection rates in the month, seven have more than 100,000 residents, including St. Louis County, Kansas City and the city of St. Louis.

The health department reported 807 deaths so far in October, a figure that includes three daily reports of more than 100 deaths resulting from reviews of death certificates, linking them to COVID-19 testing results.

With the election on Tuesday, Gov. Mike Parson, a Republican seeking a full term in office, issued a news release touting the state’s overall response to the disease under the headline “Conquering COVID-19: Keeping Missourians Safe.”

The White House Coronavirus Task Force report issued this week, however, puts Missouri in the “red zone” because its 7-day case rate is above 101 per 100,000 people and testing is showing a positive rate greater than 10 percent.

“A tremendous amount of work has been accomplished over the past eight months, and it does not stop here,” Parson said in the news release. “We have come a long way since March, and we will continue to do everything we can to respond to COVID-19 and keep Missourians safe.”

The latest task force report repeats its recommendation that the state take stronger measures for Missouri to slow the spread of the coronavirus, including wearing masks, avoiding crowds and limiting gatherings. Parson has repeatedly refused calls to issue a statewide order requiring masks in public places.

“We are finding that as the weather cools, friends and families are moving social gatherings indoors, significantly increasing spread,” the report states.

Those 72 hospital admissions on Tuesday in the St. Louis metro area increased the seven-day moving average to 56, the fifth highest total since the pandemic began and the highest since April 11, the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force stated in a news release.

“In September, we were concerned when our admissions totals climbed over 40. Seeing totals like this is heartbreaking,” Alex Garza, incident commander for the task force, said in the release.

Hospitalizations are rising across the state. On Thursday, University of Missouri Hospital in Columbia reported 50 total inpatients with COVID-19 and the Columbia-Boone County Department of Health and Human Services reported 96 inpatients in total in Columbia hospitals.

In his release, Parson focused on response coordination efforts, regulatory changes, increased testing efforts and work moving protective gear and medications to hospitals, other health providers and first responders. It noted that a hotel in the St. Louis area was converted for possible use as an emergency hospital in 11 days and that could be repeated if necessary.

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Rudi Keller
Rudi Keller

Rudi Keller covers the state budget, energy and the legislature. He’s spent 22 of his 30 years in journalism covering Missouri government and politics, most recently as the news editor of the Columbia Daily Tribune. Keller has won awards for spot news and investigative reporting.