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Health, Science, Environment

Outside Of St. Louis And Kansas City, Coronavirus Cases Rise In Missouri

An illustration created by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows the structure of the coronavirus now named COVID-19.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
An illustration created by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows the structure of the coronavirus named COVID-19.

The St. Louis region has seen ups and downs recently in its coronavirus case numbers, but elsewhere in the state the number of cases is rising quickly.

Nine counties in Missouri have had case counts increase by more than 20% last week, according to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services.

St. Clair and Linn counties, both in western Missouri, sit at the top of the list with increases of 59% and 40%, respectively.

Dr. Alex Garza, head of the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force, said Friday that some rural hospitals are starting to become concerned about having enough room for COVID-19 patients.

The task force is made up of BJC Health Care, Mercy, SSM Health and St. Luke's. But Garza said it was conversations with Mercy, which has locations outside the metropolitan area, that sparked worry about capacity.

“They were going to start transferring patients from those outlying areas into the St. Louis market, the more immediate county and city, in order to build capacity out in those community hospitals,” Garza said.

More rural areas in the state have smaller and more spread-out populations. But the data, Garza said, accounted for the population differences between rural and urban areas.

“The case growth over the past week, per population, again looking at it per 100,000, the majority of them are coming from the rural areas,” Garza said.

At the moment, St. Louis and Kansas City have lower rates, sitting well below the rest of the state for new cases per 100,000 people.

Keeping cases down in the next few months will become increasingly vital as flu season converges with the coronavirus pandemic.

Garza said countries in the Southern Hemisphere had mild flu seasons.

“They believe it was because of all of the measures that were taken for coronavirus. And so hopefully, all those things will play out for our flu season,” Garza said.

That will mean keeping up with safety precautions diligently: wearing masks, social distancing and washing hands often.

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