SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (AP) — A hospital in Springfield has opened its sixth COVID-19 ward as the delta virus variant rages in the state’s southwest, and St. Louis County and Kansas City health officials also are warning about a sharp increase in cases.
Mercy Hospital in Springfield announced Sunday that it had opened its sixth COVID-19 ward, after the hospital needed only five wards during the height of the pandemic last year.
Chief Administrative Officer Erik Frederick said the hospital was treating 133 virus patients as of Sunday.
“Many local rural communities don’t have high vaccination rates,” Frederick wrote. “They also don’t have a hospital. ‘Get sick, come to Springfield.’ I think that’s getting left out of the narrative.”
On Monday, the St. Louis County Health Department issued a public health advisory after a 63% increase — 1,461 cases — in new COVID-19 cases in the last two weeks. The county is currently averaging 100 newly diagnosed cases per day.
County Executive Sam Page attributed the rise in cases to the Delta variant, which is more contagious than previous variants. He predicted an increase in hospitalizations and deaths in coming weeks and urged residents to be vaccinated.
In the Kansas City area, doctors at the University of Kansas Health System said health officials needed to begin considering measures to respond to a rise in cases in the metro area.
Dr. Steve Stites, chief medical officer at the health system, didn’t yet suggest requiring masks in indoor spaces again but said it could become a possibility because of the large number of people who aren’t vaccinated in the region, combined with people socializing more often.
The city of Independence issued a public health advisory on Friday in response to increasing COVID-19 cases.