COVID-19 cases continue big increase across state, region

    New COVID-19 cases are soaring across Missouri and in the region as the Omicron variant of the coronavirus begins to take hold. Two local hospitals recently announced new visitation restrictions as they have become overwhelmed with patients.

    Missouri is currently seeing its highest COVID-19 case totals since the pandemic began in the spring of 2020. As of Monday, the state reported a total of 48,880 confirmed and 13,939 probable cases in the past seven days and that number likely does not included thousands of more cases detected with at-home testing kids that go unreported to health officials.
    The state also reported 29 confirmed deaths and five probable deaths in the previous week and a seven-day testing positivity rate of 33.4 percent. Anything above 10 percent is considered high, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
    According to the state COVID Dashboard, Crawford County had 151 confirmed and 24 probable new cases in the previous week as of Monday, a jump from 74 confirmed cases the previous week. Cases have been steadily increasing since October 25 when just 19 were reported. The county’s seven-day positivity rate was 20.2 percent.
    The Phelps-Maries County Health Department reported on January 6 that it had 300 new cases in the previous week in Phelps County, but as of Monday that number had jumped to 368 confirmed and 21 probable cases on the COVID Dashboard.
    On December 2, the Health Department reported 238 active cases in Phelps County, which was up from just 95 on November 4. The positivity rate in Phelps County was 23.9 percent as of Monday.
     Effective Monday, both Missouri Baptist Sullivan Hospital (MBSH) and Phelps Health in Rolla have instituted new policies because of the increase in regional cases.
    “As we experience extraordinary volumes, we recognize the need to keep our patients and families safe, as well as the importance of offering bedside support to loved ones,” MBSH announced on Sunday. “Starting Monday, visitors for COVID patients will be restricted to one designated visitor throughout the course of their hospital stay. This is a temporary restriction to help keep our facilities safe as we move through this surge.”
    “Effective Monday, January 10, 2022, cloth, reusable or privately purchased face masks are no longer allowed at any of our Phelps Health facilities,” the hospital announced on January 7. “All Phelps Health employees, patients and visitors must wear the disposable surgical masks provided at the entrances to our hospital, clinics and all other locations. This new policy is taking effect for the safety of our staff and patients. We appreciate your continued cooperation and support.”
    MBSH also recently announced that, due to high volumes, it is no longer providing COVID tests to individuals without symptoms. If you are asymptomatic and wish to be tested, the hospital advised that you visit for a list of public testing options or purchase an at-home test.
    “Do not visit the ER if you do not have symptoms,” MBSH announced. “Thank you for allowing us to focus on the sickest patients.”
    On January 5, MBSH announced that patients hospitalized for COVID-19 exceeded 500 across BJC HealthCare on January 4.
    “This is beyond anything we’ve seen thus far in the pandemic. Because our nurses, staff and facilities are stretched to their limits, we have made the difficult decision to postpone all elective procedures starting Thursday, January 6, until further notice,” the hospital announced. “This will allow us to reassign staff to other areas of the hospital with more urgent need. Patients who currently have procedures scheduled, and whose procedures are not considered urgent, will be contacted by a member of our team about postponing. This decision was not made lightly, and reflects our current challenge as cases continue to rise and resources continue to be strained.”
    On January 6, Phelps Health that its inpatient and intensive care unit status was “at capacity” and that it would “continue to monitor our scheduled surgical cases based on hospital bed capacity. Some nonessential surgeries or procedures may need to be postponed.” The hospital noted that 82.3 percent of its COVIDs-19 patients were unvaccinated.
    The hospital recommended people help slow the spread of COVID-19 in our community by:
    • Getting vaccinated.
    • Wearing a mask over your nose and mouth while in public places. (N95, KN95, and surgical masks provide the best protection against the Omicron variant.)
    • Staying six feet away from others.
    • Avoiding large social gatherings.
    • Testing to avoid spreading to others.
    • Washing your hands with soap and water or using hand sanitizer.
    • Staying home if you are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms.