Missouri COVID hospitalizations more than doubled since November

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ST. LOUIS – St. Louis area health officials have noticed an observable rise in COVID-19 cases in our region.

This past November, Missouri recorded 332 COVID-related hospitalizations. Not halfway through January 2024, that number has more than doubled to 799 hospitalizations statewide.

Dr. Kendra Holmes, president and CEO of Affinia Healthcare, says it’s a clear sign that the challenges of COVID are not over yet. And while we’ve made huge progress since the creation of a vaccine, some are still paying the price.

“The CDC publishes a weekly map tracking COVID-19 deaths. As of the end of December, nationally, we were about 3%; Missouri, unfortunately, is at about 4.7%. So, we’re above the national average and that puts us in the top 10 of the states with COVID-19 deaths,” Holmes said.

The doctor says there are plenty of reasons why Missouri has more COVID-19 deaths than the average, even though we’re nowhere near the height of the pandemic.

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“Unfortunately, Missouri is a state that has poor health outcomes,” she said. “If you look at the rates of obesity, chronic disease, smoking, those are poor health indicators which will lead to, unfortunately, an increase in death due to COVID-19.”

Holmes says many more people are surviving COVID than before the vaccine. And while we’re seeing an increase in RSV, flu, and COVID-19 cases, hospital systems are not being overwhelmed.

“The major take home for me and for everyone should be that vaccinations works,” she said.

One of the big challenges now is tracking the number of new victims. Officials once used confirmed positivity rates. But that’s more difficult to measure now.

“Because of the change in how we’re testing for COVID-19, most people have in-home tests and that’s not being tracked. We don’t really test the positivity rate; we don’t follow the positivity rate,” Holmes said. “What the indicators generally are are rates of hospitalization and rates of death; those are the items that we will continue to track.”

But Holmes says there is a silver lining.

“We’re getting back into our rhythm of flu season and, to me, that’s actually a good thing. It proves that we really have persevered and we’ve gotten past the really hard part of COVID-19,” she said. “Again, this is the new normal. We’re going to see cases of flu; we’re going to see cases of COVID-19; but we’re able to adapt, and I think that’s the important part.”

But for anyone expecting COVID-19 to vanish or simply go away, Holmes says that won’t happen.

“It’s not going anywhere. It’s part of our life, just like the common cold is part of our life,” she said.

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