All 14 counties that make up the St. Louis region are seeing an increase in the spread of COVID-19, said Dr. Alex Garza, incident commander of the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force.
Up until the middle of June, the region was on the best-case scenario curve, with hospitalization numbers trending down, Garza said. However, we took a turn upwards at about June 15 — and an even sharper turn in the wrong direction at around June 27, according to the task force’s graphs. We are now on the “slow decline” curve, Garza said.
The task force analyzed several different trends in the COVID data to determine this. First, the number of people being admitted to area hospitals continues to climb.
“We know that we won’t be at zero for quite some time, but we become concerned when we see these upticks in admissions consistently over time,” Garza said.
The task force uses a “seven-day moving average” to look at new hospital admissions because it shows the overall trend. On Monday, July 6, Garza said the average is 21, which is the highest that it’s been in a month.
Garza shared the data as part of his regular press briefings for the task force, which makes up the region’s four largest healthcare systems: SSM Health, BJC HealthCare, Mercy and St. Luke’s Hospital. These systems represent 2.8 million people for an area that includes surrounding counties in Missouri and Illinois.
The seven-day average for people currently hospitalized for COVID-19 has also increased to 156. That number was 145 on July 3, and 139 on July 1.
Garza also showed the epidemiology curves for all of the counties in the task force’s statistical area, including seven Missouri counties and seven Illinois counties. All saw upticks in COVID-19 cases in June.
“Again, it’s concerning that we have an increase in transmission,” he said. “We’re seeing an increase in cases, an increase in hospitalizations. So we need to do everything we can to interrupt that transmission.”
Wearing masks, not gathering in large groups, washing hands and practicing social distancing are all simply ways people can help stop the spread of the virus, he said.
Garza also spoke about the reproductive number, or the rate of transmission. If this number is above one, then a person with COVID-19 is transmitting it to another person.
“If it’s below one, then they’re not,” he said. “Our best guess is, across our area, the reproductive number is above one.”
St. Louis City and St. Louis County were both at about 1.5, and St. Charles was at about 1.25, according to the graphs Garza shared. For reference, St. Louis City was at .9 in May, which was a huge improvement where it was in March — which was 5.
When the region first started lifting the stay-at-home orders, leaders predicted that this number could rise.
Every day, the task force also shares daily hospitalization numbers. New hospital admissions (data lagged two days) decreased — from 23 yesterday to 14 today.
Inpatient confirmed COVID positive hospitalizations increased — from 160 yesterday to 167 today. Inpatients awaiting test results increased — from 94 yesterday to 106 today. The number of confirmed COVID-positive patients in the ICUs decreased — from 46 yesterday to 40 today. The number of confirmed COVID positive patients on ventilators decreased — from 25 yesterday to 23 today
Across the system hospitals, 13 COVID-19 patients were discharged yesterday.
This brought the task force to a new milestone of discharging a total of 3,002 COVID-19 patients to date.
“That’s a testament to all of those healthcare workers who have been working so hard to treat the COVID patients and get them back home to their loved ones,” Garza said. “Thank you everyone for that.”