St. Louis County Public Health concerned on COVID-19 case surge post holiday season

Alejandra Palacios
Updated: December 01, 2020 06:39 PM
Created: December 01, 2020 05:43 PM

St. Louis County health officials say they are concerned about hospital capacity with the continued increase in COVID-19 cases. They are already seeing cases tick up from November and worry about what the coming months will look like.

"Half of hospital admissions have been in November since the start of the pandemic. About 50 percent are those who needed intensive care. We have seen a third of our deaths reported in November also," said Amy Westbrook, the St. Louis County Public Health Director.

Westbrook said there continues to be wide spread community transmission of COVID-19, with 75 percent of those reported to have COVID-19 being exposed in the community.  Westbrook reported on Tuesday that we’ve had almost 10,000 cases in the county. This includes 440 hospitalizations and 112 deaths.

"The median age for infection is 34 overall. For hospitalizations and ICU it's 70 and the median age for deaths is 85. A majority are associated with individuals in long term care, congregate settings," said Westbrook.

Westbrook also noted the average number of cases per day is 210 and said it has continued to rise over the fall and early winter. Westbrook said they are still seeing a third of reported cases to be within the age group of 20-35.

Although testing efforts have expanded, there is still concern on cases going up post holiday season. Westbrook said about 16,000 people are tested a week and of those tested, 12 percent test positive for COVID-19.

If cases keep climbing health leaders worry about the strain this will have on hospitals.

"It's not like we have a lot of extra beds. We do have extra beds so we are ok but we are very concerned about all the holiday travel that happened," said Essentia Health East Market President Dr. Jon Pryor.

Pryor did stress that the governor's orders, along with healthcare systems working together with patient transfers, education, and postponing some elective surgeries has helped. He said that doesn't mean they will have extra beds forever, especially if cases continue to go up.

"We are far from over with this. It's going to be a long winter and we need everyone and I mean everyone to do their part," said Pryor.

Westbrook and Pryor said they are working with health leaders and other counties on how vaccine distribution will look when it gets approved.

"In northeast Minnesota we are taking regional approach. There's a lot of unknown still but there will be a tiered system of getting vaccines out to individuals who are critical in response or vulnerable populations," said Westbrook.

They don't have exact numbers on how many vaccines the region will get but said it will be limited at first so they will have to prioritize who gets the first doses.

"The vaccine will most likely be out sometime in mid December or towards end of December but it's not like we can take our guard down at that point, it will be maybe even more than six months to vaccinate everyone," said Pryor.

Local health leaders hope to have more information for the public on the vaccine within the next week or so.

The FDA announced that on Dec.10 the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research’s, Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee will meet to discuss emergency use authorization of the Pfizer-Bio-N-Tech COVID-19 vaccine.

In the meantime, health leaders stress the importance of not letting your guard down and continuing to wear a face mask, social distance, avoid social gatherings, and washing your hands.

Credits

Alejandra Palacios

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