ST. LOUIS – The COVID-19 wave is a looming tsunami, Dr. Alex Garza, head of the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force, warned on Monday.
After eight months of struggle against the coronavirus and its restrictions, he said, “I’m sorry to say that things have only gotten, predictably, worse.”
“We are now at a tipping point: The actions that we take today will determine what the next weeks and months will look like.”
“We continue to head in the wrong direction,” Garza reported bluntly.
The average daily number of new patients being hospitalized with COVID-19 is 120, with that figure rising throughout each day as cases are confirmed. The seven-day average of hospitalizations for the virus is now at 707.
It’s too late to outrun the tide; the hope is simply to minimize the surge, and delay will cost dearly, Garza said.
“Every week that we delay taking significant action to decrease the transmission of the virus in the community will make the peaking cases grow even more.”
If people act this week to cut the transmission rate so an infected person isn’t spreading the virus to others, the number of cases is likely to peak about Christmas, he said. He then explained that if we wait another week, until, say, Nov. 27, the peak will be higher and will last longer.
“Time is of the essence … we just simply cannot wait another day to get this under control. The bottom line is, we have to act fast, and we have to act decisively.”
At the current rate of hospitalizations, area medical systems will run out of ICU beds in the first week of December, he said.
Garza presented health professionals’ pleas to state officials:
- “It is past time for Missouri to join … other states and put a mask mandate in place.”
- State officials should work with health care systems’ emergency planners to organize action for when – not if – the systems become overwhelmed. Hospitals will need more staff and more space, and they need the state to work with them.
- Health expert want a state-wide “safer at home” policy telling all Missourians to stay at home except for essential errands and to strictly limit social gatherings.
Garza complimented the many people who have been following public safety guidelines all along. That has undoubtedly prevented many infections and saved lives, he said.
Now, he’s calling on leaders of all sorts – elected officials, bosses and managers, heads of households – to step up and lead the way.
“We need you to take every step possible to turn this thing around,” he implored. “It’s a tragedy that we’re barreling toward this dire situation and not doing everything possible to prevent it from getting worse.”
Garza’s final urgent request: “Please, please make a plan for Thanksgiving that will keep the people you love out of the hospital.”