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Missouri COVID-19 hospitalizations set records, with death toll rising

(AP) — The new surge of the coronavirus was evident in Missouri on Thursday, with record hospitalizations in St. Louis and Columbia, and the Kansas City metropolitan area experiencing its worst month ever for COVID-19 deaths.

The St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force reported late Wednesday 72 hospital admissions in one day, the most since tracking began in April. Admissions at St. Louis-area hospitals have risen dramatically over the past month, driven in part by an increase in patients from rural areas where hospitals are overwhelmed.

“In September, we were concerned when our admissions totals climbed over 40. Seeing totals like this is heartbreaking,” said Dr. Alex Garza, who heads the task force.

St. Louis hospitals are at 85% capacity, and intensive care units are at 75%, the task force reported.

“We have a lot of sick people in our care, and they don’t just have COVID-19. But we can prevent the number of patients sick with the virus if we all just wear a mask, social distance, stay away from large gatherings and wash our hands,” Garza said.

The situation is equally dire in Columbia, where the Columbia/Boone County Health Department reported 95 people hospitalized with COVID-19, a new record. Nearly one-third of those patients — 31 — were in ICU, and 19 were on ventilators.

Meanwhile, the Kansas City Star reported that the number of coronavirus deaths in the metro area, which includes Kansas City as well as counties in Missouri and Kansas, was at 176 in October, the most of any month since the onset of the pandemic.

Deaths in the region have risen sharply during the fall. The metro area recorded 80 deaths in August but 172 in September.

“We would predict that November will be worse than October,” Kansas City Health Department Director Rex Archer told the Star. “December’s going to be worse than November, and January’s going to be worse than December. We will continue to set records.”

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services’ COVID-19 dashboard shows Missouri had the seventh-highest number of per capita deaths over the past seven days, and the 12th highest number of new cases per capita. The statewide positivity rate of 11.6% is more than twice the World Health Organization’s 5% benchmark for reopening.

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson, a Republican, allowed the state to reopen in mid-June. He has urged Missourians to take personal responsibility in preventing the spread of the virus, but there is no statewide mandate for masks or social distancing. Many local jurisdictions have implemented their own requirements.

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