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St. Louis Hospitals See Largest Spike In Coronavirus Admissions in Four Months

A hospital worker rolls equipment through the intensive care
Courtesy Erin Jones
Barnes-Jewish Hospital
A hospital worker rolls equipment through the intensive care unit at Barnes-Jewish Hospital in April. St. Louis hospitals saw 66 new admissions of people sick with the coronavirus on Monday.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the number of new coronavirus admissions on Monday at hospitals in the St. Louis Region. Corrected data from the St. Louis Metropolitan Task Force puts the number at 66.

St. Louis hospitals admitted 66 patients with the coronavirus on Monday, the largest single-day number in more than four months.

New hospital admissions have only risen above the 60-person mark three times previously, and all those days were at the beginning of the pandemic.

Daily coronavirus-related hospital admissions have recently plateaued in the upper 30s. Monday’s admissions are nearly twice that number, and hospital officials say they’re cause for concern.

“Our data for today, just to be blunt, is fairly alarming,” said Dr. Alexander Garza, head of the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force.

New hospital admissions are one tool health experts use to measure how widespread the virus is in the community. Close to 40 new patients a day represents the upper limit of what hospitals can comfortably handle, Garza said.

The task force doesn’t put too much stock in daily data, he said. Instead, it relies on trends such as rolling seven-day averages of hospitalizations. But doctors are bracing for a sustained increase in numbers.

“We don’t like to look at the swings from one day to the next,” he said. “But it’s hard to ignore such a significant increase.”

Hospital officials say they don’t know what is behind the spike in cases. New admissions were not confined to a single hospital or region.

The task force is trying to determine if there are any commonalities among the new patients, Garza said.

Even as new cases of the coronavirus rose throughout the summer, hospitalizations and deaths have not risen in tandem. Health experts say that’s because younger people are contracting and spreading the virus.

Young people in their teens, 20s and 30s make up a disproportionate number of new coronavirus cases, health officials said. While they may not have serious cases of the virus that require hospitalization, they can spread the virus to older people, who are more likely to have severe symptoms.

Follow Sarah on Twitter: @petit_smudge

Sarah Fentem is the health reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.