Last week, the White House Coronavirus Task Force put out a grim report on the state of the pandemic nationwide as well as in Missouri. As outlined by St. Louis County Executive Dr. Sam Page earlier this morning, here are some of the findings and recommendations from that report.
Every county in Missouri has moderate or high levels of community transmission; 91 percent have high levels of transmission, considered red zone counties. St. Louis, St. Charles and Jackson counties combined represent more than one-third of the cases statewide.
The COVID risk to all Americans is at a historic high. The national daily COVID incidence after Memorial Day, but before the summer surge, was fewer than 25,000 new cases a day and is now more than 180,000 new cases a day. COVID inpatients then were fewer than 30,000 but are now more than 90,000. Fatalities have more than doubled. A post-Thanksgiving surge will compromise COVID patient care, as well as medical care overall.
As the White House report stresses, if you are over 65 or have significant health conditions, you should not enter any indoor public spaces where anyone is unmasked due to the immediate risk to your health. You should have groceries and medications delivered. Anyone who gathered beyond their immediate household during the Thanksgiving weekend should assume they became infected and get tested.
If you are under 40, there is a good chance you will not develop symptoms. However, you are dangerous to others. If you are over 65 or have significant medical conditions and you gathered outside of your immediate household, you are at a significant risk for serious COVID infection.
The report highlights that the depth of viral spread across Missouri remains significant. Without public health orders in place compelling Missourians to act differently, the spread will remain unyielding with significant impact on the healthcare system. Mitigation and messaging in Missouri need to be further strengthened as other states have done. Effective practices to decrease transmission in public spaces include requiring masks and limiting indoor capacity in businesses until cases and test positivity decrease to the yellow zone.
The White House report also stresses the importance of getting a flu shot to keep more people healthy and out of the hospitals this winter.
The CDC on Friday provided its latest guidance. The agency stressed that Indoor venues where distancing is not maintained and consistent use of face masks is not possible -- such as restaurant dining -- are particularly high risk. Transmission also can be reduced by promoting working from home as well as reducing the size of gatherings, which St. Louis County currently restricts to 10. The CDC also reported that since the first confirmed case of COVID-19 was reported in the U.S. on January 20, 2020, about 13.8 million cases and 272,525 deaths have been reported nationwide.
In St. Louis County, more than 55,000 people have been diagnosed with COVID-19. We have lost 1,098 of our residents to the virus.
With colder weather, more time spent indoors, the holiday season and about 50 percent of transmission coming from those who do not have symptoms, the U.S. has entered a phase of high-level transmission where a multi-pronged approach to implementing all evidence-based public health strategies is essential.
These protocols include:
These actions will provide a bridge to a future where there is wide availability of vaccines. That’s when safe return to more everyday activities will be possible.