St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force will watch hospitalizations closely with stay-at-home orders lifting

Looking at the trend of new hospital admissions is the best way we currently can evaluate the spread of the virus in the St. Louis community, said Dr. Alex Garza, incident commander of the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force

Now that the stay-at-home orders have been lifted in the City of St. Louis and St. Louis County on May 18, this is the trend line that the task force will be tracking to make sure the region doesn’t experience a surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, he said. 

“We are continually looking for other pieces of data that we can monitor to try and get as early a signal as we can,” Garza said. “We think we can come up with some better ways to look at the data.”

The task force includes the region’s four largest healthcare systems: BJC HealthCare, Mercy, SSM Health and St. Luke’s Hospital. Garza presented a slide of the seven-day average of hospital inpatient numbers since early April at the task force’s hospitals, and it shows the beginning of a downward trend. 

“This is a really important trend, and it’s an indicator of the level of suppression that we have of the virus in the community,” Garza has said. 

Another important trend is the total number of people in the hospitals. The seven-day moving average of the total number of COVID-19 patients in the hospitals seems to be “leveling off,” but it’s the lowest it’s ever been at 487, he said.

On May 18, Garza reported that there are 487 people currently in the hospital who have either tested positive for COVID-19 or are awaiting test results. The number of patients in the intensive care units is 109, and the number of people on ventilators is 76.

Across the system hospitals, 43 COVID-19 patients were discharged yesterday, bringing the cumulative number of patients discharged to 1,827.

Garza reiterated the ways people can keep their families safe: washing hands, wiping surfaces, wearing masks in public, staying six feet apart, keeping gatherings to fewer than 10 people and not visiting people in nursing homes.

“The relaxing of social distancing orders is an important time and a sign of progress this region has made in stopping the spread of the virus,” Garza said. “But it’s still important to remember that the virus is still here; it’s still contagious and it’s still very dangerous.” 

Dr. Garza will now only give briefings once a week on Mondays, but the task force will continue to provide the data daily to the media.

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