St. Louis Public Schools teacher Audrey Hammock works with Walter Foster

St. Louis Public Schools teacher Audrey Hammock works with Walter Foster, 10, at Patrick Henry Downtown Academy while both are masked. Public school districts can continue mask mandates after a Boone County judge shot down a legal effort by Attorney General Eric Schmitt to unilaterally end them.

The St. Louis County Department of Public Health issued a face coverings order effective Monday, Sept. 27. 

Face coverings are required to be worn by all individuals ages five and older while in indoor and enclosed public buildings, spaces, and public transportation in St. Louis County. 

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation’s (KFF) report, 70 percent of Black adults now report having received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. This marks a significant change from earlier in the vaccination effort when Black adults were much less likely to report being vaccinated than white adults.

“KFF’s analysis of state data on vaccination rates by race and ethnicity suggests that, when  looking at people of all ages including children who are not yet eligible to be vaccinated, white people continue to be vaccinated at higher rates than either Black or Hispanic people, although those gaps have narrowed over time,” the researchers wrote.

Unfortunately, the pandemic has reduced the life span of Black males by an average of three years and has robbed Hispanic men of about 2.5 years, according to KFF

Black females have seen a more than a 2-year reduction in their average lifespan because of the pandemic. In contrast, Hispanic females fared better by losing slightly less than their African American peers.

The life expectancy for white males and females decreased by just over one year.

Dr. Clay Dunagan said 80% of new cases that require hospitalization are unvaccinated individuals during the St. Louis Pandemic Task Force briefing on Tuesday, Sept. 28.

According to the St. Louis Pandemic Task Force, the average for positive COVID cases on record is 437 people from daily net hospitalizations; the seven-day moving average is 447.

Dr. Robert Poirier, Washington University emergency medicine physician, talked about what healthcare providers are facing across the St. Louis region.

“Lately the local emergency departments have been running pretty full, and signs that aren’t COVID are popping up here,” Poirer said. “We are seeing increased cases of the common cold virus, the RINO viruses, and others besides COVID.” 

Poirer talked about how consulting with a primary health physician or getting a COVID test from a clinic can help free up space in emergency rooms across the St. Louis region. 

“The emergency departments have been seeing a lot of people that have lacerations, broken bones and strokes so emergency cases are continuing to come in,” Poirer said. 

“The hospital’s patient side is running full, which backs up the emergency department as we wait for beds for people to be admitted. It provides us less capacity for us to see a high volume of patients coming to the emergency department.”

There are many COVID testing options available if you think you have symptoms. However, visiting the emergency room should be a last resort.

“If you were exposed to COVID, are showing symptoms and want to get tested for COVID, it’s best not to come to the emergency department,” Poirer said. “Some people come to us, thinking they can get a test right away and know their test results within a few hours, but in the emergency departments, we don’t have those kinds of testing resources.” 

Local doctors advise people concerned about COVID symptoms should consult with their primary care doctor, a pediatrician, or a local health clinic like Affinia or STLHealthcare. 

“If you have moderate to severe symptoms, that’s when you would want to come to the emergency room, which includes shortness of breath, trouble breathing, significant nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea,” Poirer said.

Moreover, Poirer talked about how families should have emergency plans in place for when children get sick and must miss school or when an adult gets sick and must miss work.

“A lot of kids right now are being sent home from school and parents want to take them to the emergency department,” Poirer said. “If they’re just having mild symptoms, it’s better to go to your pediatrician or local available clinics if they just need the test.” 

“We don’t want to scare anybody away from the emergency department, but we want to make sure that people get to the best place to get tested or get the treatment they need.”

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