ST. LOUIS (AP) — The city is experiencing a “massive increase” in the number of daily COVID-19 cases, health officials warned Wednesday. The figure has tripled since the start of December, a trend the city’s health director calls “alarming.”
According to the Department of Health, the COVID-19 cases show widespread transmission by ZIP codes across the city. The seven-day case average has tripled in December, up to more than 150 cases per day. The percentage of positive COVID-19 tests is also rising, currently at 14.3% (up +3.2% over last week), with preliminary data from the past few days putting it as high as 25%. The goal for this rate is 5% or less.
Data from the state’s COVID-19 dashboard on Wednesday shows a statewide positivity rate of 16%.
“These trends are alarming, especially when we know the actual numbers may be higher, as many people have the disease asymptomatically and others are not getting tested,” said Dr. Mati Hlatshwayo Davis, Director of Health for the City of St. Louis. “In order to turn these trends around it’s important that we focus on the proven successful mitigation measures that have been emphasized throughout the pandemic.”
Proven ways to prevent transmission of the virus include:
- Getting a vaccine or booster if eligible. The booster is the best protection against the Omicron variant at this time. For a list of vaccine locations, visit the city’s website at https://www.stlouis-mo.gov/covid-19/vaccine/
- Correctly wear a mask when indoors
- Stay at least six feet apart
- Wash your hands often with soap and water, or use hand sanitizer
- Limit the number and size of social gatherings
- Test everyone before social gatherings. Contact your local pharmacy for a rapid test or visit the city website for a list of testing sites, at https://www.stlouis-mo.gov/covid-19/data/test-locations.cfm
Meanwhile, people seeking to get tested for the virus are struggling to find kits in stores or appointments at testing sites. Urgent care centers and pharmacies in the St. Louis and Kansas City areas are busy, with few openings. Stores that sell home testing kits are struggling to keep them on the shelves.
The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services said it was considering adding testing sites given the recent surge in demand, department spokeswoman Lisa Cox told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She said the agency had already added testing events in the St. Louis and Kansas City areas for the holiday season.
St. Louis County is also seeing a big spike in cases. The county said Wednesday that an average of 712 people were being diagnosed each day, a 77% jump from just a week ago.
“Residents are currently at the highest risk of exposure to COVID-19 than they have ever been,” a news release from the county said.
The number of hospitalized patients continues to rise. The state dashboard shows 2,160 people hospitalized in Missouri, more than double the number in mid-November.
With the fast-spreading Omicron variant surging, some St. Louis area bars and restaurants are pausing indoor dining and drinking.
“We just felt it was in the best interest of the community, the safety of our staff, that we shut down,” Jamie Kilgore, owner of Planter’s House and Small Change in St. Louis, told KMOV-TV.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.