ST. LOUIS – Blazing heat, humidity and COVID-19 are making the St. Louis area a hot spot. Even the White House is noticing: Dr. Alex Garza, the head of the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force, reminded viewers in his Facebook press conference on Friday that the White House had ranked St. Louis among cities on a list of coronavirus hot spots.
Our problems with the virus’s rapid spreading isn’t news to officials here, Garza acknowledged; but “it’s concerning that … we’re on a list for taking aggressive action.”
Hospitalizations continue to rise, although the numbers of people in the ICU and on ventilators have not risen proportionately. Garza attributed that to health professionals’ growing knowledge of and expertise in treating people with the virus. Also, most of the recent COVID-19 cases are among young people, who generally are healthier than their elders.
The risk of death from COVID-19 increases with age and the presence of other health problems; and males are 1.7 times as likely as females to die of the virus.Black people continue to be hit harder than non-Blacks. Data show that Blacks are more than four times as likely to test positive for the coronavirus; nearly 2.5 times as likely to have to be hospitalized; and nearly 1.5 times as likely to need intensive care.
However, once a Black person is in the hospital, he or she has no more risk of dying than a non-Black person, Garza said.
According to estimates released last month by the U.S. Census Bureau, Blacks make up 45.3 percent of St. Louis city’s population and 18.8 percent of the total St. Louis area population. The COVID-19 death rate for Blacks, standardized as a figure for every 100,000 Black people, stands at 55. For non-Blacks, that figure is 15 for every 100,000.
“These are some very sobering statistics,” Garza said.
St. Louisans need to step up their game, he warned. “We’re in a difficult place right now, and we do need to be taking some aggressive actions as a community.”
“It can’t just be 50 percent of the population that wears a mask,” he stressed; participation has to be up in the 90th percentiles to be effective.
St. Louis County’s health department has a fun idea – Mask-Up Monday – to encourage good pandemic practices, Garza noted. Area residents are asked to post photos of themselves, families and friends wearing face masks and practicing social distancing. The hashtag: #maskupmondaystl