Missouri is reporting its largest number of coronavirus cases since early February 2021—before vaccines were in widespread circulation—and that’s feeding new concerns about both the virulence of the delta variant of COVID-19 and the slowing national vaccination efforts.
According to the St. Louis Post Dispatch, the state’s health department reported more than 1,200 new coronavirus cases, the most seen in four months. Since June, the average daily number of new cases in Missouri has jumped from about 400 to almost 700, thanks in large part to the delta variant. On June 24, the daily average had moved to 759.
Neighboring Illinois, by contrast, has a daily average of 222 and twice the population of the Show-Me State. Illinois also has a higher vaccination rate—65% of adults have at least one dose of the vaccine and 57% are fully vaccinated. Compare that to Missouri’s 46% and 40%, respectively.
The increase in cases throughout the state means that more people—including younger people—are being affected and are impacting the state’s healthcare infrastructure.
“People in their late teens and even early 20s are being hospitalized and needing the use of ventilators,” Katie Towns, acting director of Springfield-Greene County Health Department, said in a CNN story.
Kendra Findley, administrator of community health and epidemiology for that agency, added, “If you go back to mid-May, what we were seeing was 70% Delta variant and about 24% Alpha variant. In June, the last three weeks, that has shifted greatly to 93% Delta variant and only 7% Alpha variant. That shift has likely been the cause of surge within our hospital systems.”
Dr. Robin Trotman, an infectious diseases expert at CoxHealth, said of the hospital surge in that area, “It’s nearly 100% of the people hospitalized with Covid pneumonia are unvaccinated. Now we do have vaccinated people who test positive, but they don’t get severely ill.”
The Missouri Independent reported that genetic surveillance of COVID-19 cases determined at least one case of the delta variant in 35 of 67 counties in the state, though the southwest portion of the state contains more than two-thirds of the delta variant cases.
That publication added that the virus is even being found in the wastewater of major metro areas in the state.
“If cases continue to rise at their current rate,” that publication added, “it’s anticipated Missouri will surpass 616,000 total cases by early next week—which would mean roughly 10% of the state’s entire population has been sick with COVID-19 since March 2020.”
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