COVID-19 hospital patients in STL below 500 for first time since early April

The number of people hospitalized in the St. Louis area has dipped below 500 for the first time since April 5, when the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force first began reporting the numbers. 

On Monday, May 11, there were 492 hospital patients who either tested positive or are awaiting test results within the task force’s hospital systems: BJC HealthCare, Mercy, SSM Health and St. Luke’s Hospital. There were 16 new hospital admissions reported Monday, which is a new daily low. The task force’s area encompasses surrounding counties in Missouri and Illinois and represents 2.8 million people.

Dr. Alexander Garza, incident commander for the task force, said hospital numbers are starting to trend downward, during his Monday, May 11 briefing. However, he said, residents can’t stop taking precautionary measures when stay-at-home orders are lifted on May 18 in the City of St. Louis and St. Louis County. 

“We can’t become complacent,” said Garza, the chief medical officer for SSM Health. “This won’t be a return to pre-COVID times. The virus is still out in the community, and there’s still a significant number of people who are susceptible to the virus. It’s up to us to not slide backwards, so let’s make sure we practice all these things that prevent transmission.” 

Garza said washing hands and surfaces, wearing masks in public, and keeping six feet away from other people are all proven preventative measures. 

Some medical doctors within the task force’s systems do not believe it’s safe to lift the stay-at-home orders in a week. Some healthcare workers have even supported and organized a “Health Before Wealth” petition letter to St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson and St. Louis County Executive Dr. Sam Page to demand that the decision to lift public-health restrictions be reversed.

Garza reported on May 11 that the number of patients in the intensive care units is 131 ― down from 140 on Sunday. The number of people on ventilators is 98 ― down from 111. 

The seven-day moving average of the total number of COVID-19 patients in the hospitals is a good indicator of transmission in the region, he said. It was 536 on May 11.

“As this number continues to come down, it helps us be confident that the steps we’re taking are working,” Garza said, “and the hospital systems are going to be ready and able to take care of COVID patients without becoming overwhelmed.”

Another important data point is the seven-day “moving average” of new hospital admissions, which is an even more timely data trend than the hospitalization average, Garza said. That average was 29 on Monday, he said, and has seen a steady decline with a “few upticks” since early April. 

Across the system hospitals, 11 COVID-19 patients were discharged yesterday, bringing the cumulative number of patients discharged to 1,674.  

Garza said, “Thanks to all the healthcare workers who worked tirelessly to take care of the patients and get them back home.”

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