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Experts warn of ‘perfect storm’ in Missouri as virus cases jump

ST. LOUIS (AP) — New cases and hospitalizations from COVID-19 are surging throughout Missouri, and health leaders are warning of an approaching “perfect storm” if more people don’t get vaccinated and take other precautions.

Missouri is seeing a seven-day average of daily new cases of more than 3,000. The average had dipped below 1,000 in October. Hospitals are overwhelmed in both the St. Louis and Kansas City areas — even before Christmas gatherings and before the fast-moving Omicron variant fully takes hold.

“We worry that we are headed toward this perfect storm,” Dr. Alex Garza, co-leader of the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force, said Tuesday.

Dr. Hilary Babcock, infectious disease expert with St. Louis-based BJC HealthCare, said scientists were learning that Omicron cases double every two to three days because of how easily it transmits and its short incubation period.

“Omicron will crowd out Delta over a pretty short timeline, over the next week or so,” Babcock told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “What we can expect is that there will be more cases.”

Garza said the only defenses were vaccination and public health measures such as wearing a mask and social distancing.

“We are asking everyone — business owners, employers and individuals — to do whatever they can to decrease transmission of the virus. One of those best ways is to wear a mask in public,” Garza said.

The Kansas City region is now averaging about 844 new COVID-19 cases per day over seven days, according to data tracked by The Kansas City Star. That’s up from 748 average daily cases just last week. It’s the highest seven-day rolling average since January.

Forty people have died from COVID-19 in Kansas City in the past week, and some hospitals are running out of beds to treat non-COVID-19 patients.

Fighting the surge is growing increasingly difficult as the public grows frustrated with the pandemic. In eastern Missouri, the health director in Franklin County resigned, alleging threats of violence against her, county Presiding Commissioner Tim Brinker confirmed Wednesday.

He said Angie Hittson told the county in her resignation letter that she was overwhelmed by the pushback as the county worked to trace COVID-19 infections, coordinate quarantines, and hold vaccination clinics.

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