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Missouri sends more ambulances to transport COVID-19 cases

August 6, 2021 GMT

LIBERTY, Mo. (AP) — Thirty ambulances and more than 60 medical personnel will be stationed across the state to help transport COVID-19 patients to other regions if nearby hospitals are too full to admit them, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson announced Friday.

Parson said the mutual aid ambulances will begin arriving Friday in five districts from across the state and will operate anywhere they are needed through Sept. 5.

The state sent ambulances from Arkansas to Springfield in mid-July when that region began straining under new COVID-19 cases caused by the delta variant.

“These 30 new ambulance teams triple our transport capacity and expand it to the entire state, as needed,” Parson said in a statement. “Our health care professionals are performing heroically to save lives as the delta variant dramatically increases hospital admissions. We will continue to support our health care heroes across the state.”

The move comes as Missouri reported a seven-day average of 2,069 newly confirmed COVID-19 cases, which is the highest number since Jan. 12 when the the seven-day average was 2,348, according to data from the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services.

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The Federal Emergency Management Agency-funded ambulance strike teams, are expected to begin transporting patients as early as Saturday. The teams will initially be positioned in Kansas City, and in northeast, southwest, south-central and northwest Missouri.

Several chief medical officers in Kansas City-area hospitals said during a video conference with area leaders on Friday that the hospitals are reaching capacity and have had to divert patients several times in recent weeks. They also said they are having staffing concerns as employees either have COVID-19 or are quarantining because of close contact.

The chief medical officers urged people to return to wearing masks and get the vaccine, noting that a vast majority of the new COVID-19 patients are not vaccinated.

For example, Darryl Nelson, chief medical officer at HCA Health Midwest, which has seven hospitals in the Kansas City area, said as of Friday the system has 145 patients with COVID-19, with 46 in intensive care. The hospitals currently are at 94% capacity.

He said 3% to 8% of those patients are vaccinated “and it continues to be a story about the unvaccinated population that is seeking care and certainly needing a higher level of care at our institutions.”

Dr. Steven Stites, chief medical officer at the University of Kansas Health System, said area hospitals are in trouble because the increase in COVID-19 cases comes on top of an influx of patients who had put off treatment during earlier spikes in coronavirus numbers.

The hospital in Kansas City, Kansas, had to deny about 500 out of the 1,500 requests for transfers from other hospitals during July, he said.

“It’s safe to say your hospitals are on the verge of a real crisis here,” Stites said, “because we don’t have a lot more beds to give with this rising number of COVID patients we’re seeing.”

Also Friday, St. Louis Mayor Tishaura O. Jones and her staff were being tested for COVID-19 after an employee tested positive for the disease. Her spokesman, Nick Dunne, said the employee notified the mayor’s office late Thursday after learning of the positive test.

Jones and her staff were being tested for COVID-19 and were asked to work from home and isolate. Others who might have had contact with the employee are being notified, Dunne told The St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

On Thursday, Missouri state Rep. Sara Walsh, a Republican who is running for U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler’s 4th congressional seat, said she and her husband, Steve, have COVID-19, and her husband is hospitalized on a ventilator.

Steve Walsh is Hartzler’s press secretary.

Sara Walsh, from Ashland, said Thursday she is home recovering from the virus. She posted on Twitter asking people to pray for her husband, who she said is “very sick.”

They are not vaccinated against COVID-19.

Walsh said she did not get the vaccine because it has not been fully approved by the federal Food and Drug Administration and she was concerned about risk factors, KRCG-TV reported. She also said she had friends who had negative reactions to the vaccine and she was not concerned about being vaccinated because she had been healthy since the pandemic began.