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Health, Science, Environment

St. Louis Region Passes Milestone Of 2,000 Coronavirus Deaths

More than 2,000 people in the St. Louis region have died of COVID-19 in 2020.
David Kovaluk
/
St. Louis Public Radio

Updated at 11:40 a.m. Nov. 13, with new coronavirus restrictions being announced in St. Louis County

The St. Louis region has passed another sobering coronavirus milestone — more than 2,000 people in the bistate area have died of COVID-19 this year.

As of Friday morning, the metro area's death toll reached 2,011, according to data gathered by the New York Times from state and local health agencies.

The news came hours before St. Louis County Executive Sam Page announced new rules mandating mask wearing and restricting gatherings, business occupancy and indoor dining.

Thursday evening, St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson announced an order to limit all private gatherings in the city to 10 or fewer people. And Gov. J.B. Pritzker warned earlier that day that “some form of a mandatory stay-at-home order” could be in Illinois’ future if the spread of coronavirus doesn’t slow as winter approaches.

Hospital admissions in the region continue to soar.

“Sadly we are not keeping up with the pace of the virus right now,” said Dr. Alex Garza, head of the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force on Wednesday. “Right now the virus is winning.”

The metro region covers an 11-county area including the urban counties of the city of St. Louis and St. Louis County, and the more suburban and rural areas of St. Charles, Jefferson, Franklin, Lincoln and Warren counties in Missouri, and Madison, Clinton, Monroe and Jersey counties in Illinois.

The region has recorded 104,983 total cases since the onset of the pandemic in early spring and passed 1,000 deaths from the virus on June 18. St. Louis County represents about a third of all cases in the bi-state metro and about 45% of its deaths from COVID-19.

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The monthly death rate in the region has not dipped below 135 since March, when nine deaths were recorded at the outset of the pandemic. So far this month at least 112 people in the metro area have died of COVID-19. If that pace keeps up, the virus will claim more than 250 lives in November, the third most of any month so far, behind April and May.

On average, since March, about eight people have died from the virus each day.

More data: St. Louis COVID-19 Dashboard: How Fast Are Coronavirus Cases Increasing?

Particularly disheartening is the fact that the metropolitan area has erased all the gains it made in the summer toward tamping the virus down.

“The only positive, at least for me, is that we have experience. Unlike, you know, the sort of newness we were dealing with in April,” said Dr. Mati Hlatshwayo-Davis, an infectious disease expert at Washington University. “But unfortunately from an epidemiological standpoint, these numbers aren’t good. They aren’t reassuring.”

That experience, however, cannot compete with hospitals simply running out of room.

To slow the spread of the virus, to reduce the strain on hospitals and to speed up the return to normal life, said Hlatshwayo-Davis, requires the same formula health officials have advocated for since March: handwashing, mask wearing and social distancing.

She says she understands the frustration with the length and monotony of the recommendations. And the temptation to defy them.

“I think people have relaxed. Now, do I empathize with people? Absolutely,” she said. “There is no reason we shouldn’t have seen better results in this country given what we know, given what we have at our disposal. ”

Hlatshwayo-Davis said she doesn’t blame people for wanting to spend time with family and hang out with friends. Instead she blames the government for a considerable lack of consistent messaging from the outset — something that has hurt Missourians and Americans as a whole.

On top of that, racial and economic disparities in the region, and across the county, continue to be exacerbated by the virus.

But she sees a bit of light at the end of the tunnel now, with the latest news of a vaccine from Pfizer. That light, however, will probably not be available on a nationwide-scale until April.

“Right now the only hopeful message I have is hunker down,” she said. “The end is now in sight.”

Follow Becca on Twitter: @itsreallyflick

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