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Missouri Coronavirus Cases Fall As Vaccine Takes Hold, Doctors Say

Affinia Healthcare nurse Felicia Standifer gives Judith Pruitt her first shot of the Moderna coronavirus vaccine on Jan. 23 at the Beloved Community United Methodist Church in south St. Louis. Pruitt said she preferred to wait for her assisted living facility to offer the vaccine, rather than signing up online.
Kayla Drake
/
St. Louis Public Radio
Affinia Healthcare nurse Felicia Standifer gives Judith Pruitt her first shot of the Moderna coronavirus vaccine on Jan. 23 at the Beloved Community United Methodist Church in south St. Louis. Pruitt said she preferred to wait for her assisted living facility to offer the vaccine, rather than signing up online.

The average daily number of new coronavirus cases in Missouri has dropped nearly 90% since peaking in November of last year.

The average daily number of new coronavirus cases in Missouri has dropped almost 90% since peaking in November of last year, according to data gathered by the New York Times. Hospitalizations and deaths also have decreased significantly in the past three months.

Doctors say that in part reflects efforts to ensure seniors and other vulnerable residents are receiving the COVID-19 vaccine.

People who work and live in long-term care facilities, the elderly and those with chronic health conditions were among the first in the state to receive the vaccine after the federal government started shipping it to the state late last year.

“The vaccinations took priority with high-risk populations," said Dr. Alex Garza, commander of the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force, during a recent news briefing. “Those are the people who are going to be showing up in hospitals and intensive care units. Focusing on those older populations and people more at risk has definitely been resulting in lower admission numbers and lower case numbers.”

That’s one of the main reasons hospitalizations, new case numbers and deaths have plunged in the past few months, Garza said.

The average daily number of new coronavirus cases in Missouri has dropped almost 90% since peaking in November. The state has seen approximately 600 new cases a day in the past week, compared with approximately 5,000 cases a day during November’s peak.

Social distancing, particularly over the holidays, and mask wearing have also helped reduce infection rates throughout the region, Garza said.

Hospitals are now admitting a smaller proportion of coronavirus patients over 75 compared to other age groups, he said.

Coronavirus cases reported in Missouri’s nursing homes and long-term care facilities also have fallen by more than 90% since peaking in late fall, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“We’ve seen significant decline in COVID impacting our nursing home population, which tends to be very sick and were a high driver of hospital admissions throughout the pandemic,” said Dr. Robert Poirier, an emergency physician at Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis.

Emergency room patients who haven’t received the vaccine appear to have more serious cases of COVID-19, he said.

“I saw a couple patients that were vaccinated that had very low-level infections, and I discharged them and they are doing well,” Poirier said.

Nearly 23% of Missouri residents have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine, according to state data. Starting next month, all Missouri residents will be eligible to receive their shot.

Doctors urge the public to stay vigilant in preventing the coronavirus by wearing a mask and social distancing until enough people are vaccinated to sufficiently keep the virus from spreading.

Follow Sarah on Twitter: @petit_smudge

Data reporter Brent Jones contributed to this article.
Copyright 2021 St. Louis Public Radio.

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