ADVERTISEMENT

Number of COVID-19 cases in St. Louis has tripled this month

December 29, 2021 GMT

ST. LOUIS (AP) — The number of daily COVID-19 cases in St. Louis has tripled since the start of December, a trend the city’s health director calls “alarming.”

Meanwhile, people seeking to get tested for the virus are struggling to find kits in stores or appointments at testing sites. Urgent care centers and pharmacies in the St. Louis and Kansas City areas are busy, with few openings. Stores that sell home testing kits are struggling to keep them on the shelves.

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services said it is considering adding testing sites given the recent surge in demand, department spokeswoman Lisa Cox told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She said the agency has already added testing events in the Kansas City and St. Louis areas for the holiday season.

ADVERTISEMENT

Republican Gov. Mike Parson told reporters gathered at the Capitol on Wednesday that Missouri has enough testing kits, but that residents might struggle to access them because of high demand or staffing shortages at pharmacies.

The St. Louis Department of Health said the seven-day case average is now at 150 cases per day. The positivity rate — the percentage of people testing who have the virus — is at 14.3% in the city, and the health department said preliminary data from the past few days shows it may now be around 25%.

Data from the state’s COVID-19 dashboard on Wednesday shows a statewide positivity rate of 16%. The goal is 5% or less.

“These trends are alarming, especially when we know the actual numbers may be higher, as many people have the disease asymptomatically and others are not getting tested,” St. Louis Health Director Dr. Mati Hlatshwayo Davis said in a news release.

St. Louis County is also seeing a big spike in cases. The county said Wednesday that 712 people are on average being diagnosed each day, a 77% jump from just a week ago.

“Residents are currently at the highest risk of exposure to COVID-19 than they have ever been,” a news release from the county said.

The number of hospitalized patients continues to rise. The state dashboard shows 2,160 people hospitalized in Missouri, more than double the number in mid-November.

With the fast-spreading omicron variant surging, some St. Louis area bars and restaurants are pausing indoor dining and drinking.

“We just felt it was in the best interest of the community, the safety of our staff, that we shut down,” Jamie Kilgore, owner of Planter’s House and Small Change in St. Louis, told KMOV-TV.

Meanwhile, Parson said it’s unclear what role local health departments have in addressing the latest surge of cases. A judge last month stripped local health departments of the ability to impose mask mandates and other requirements aimed at controlling the spread of COVID-19.

“They need to be clarified on what is is they can do in their normal operations besides a mask mandate and besides a vaccine mandate,” Parson said. “So we’ve got to do a better job at clarifying what they need and what they can do.”