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Missouri Now Seeing 2,000 New Coronavirus Cases Every Day, Highest Rate Since January

FILE - In this Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2020 file photo, a droplet falls from a syringe after a health care worker is injected with the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at Women & Infants Hospital in Providence, R.I. The Vatican has declared it “morally acceptable” for Roman Catholics to receive COVID-19 vaccines based on research that used fetal tissue from abortions. he Vatican’s watchdog office for doctrinal orthodoxy said Monday that it addressed the question after receiving requests for guidance. (AP Photo/David Goldman, File)
David Goldman/AP
Vaccinations in Missouri are slightly increasing as COVID-19 hotspots continue to grow.

Vaccinations have increased in Missouri's hardest-hit areas but remain far below levels needed to stop COVID-19 from spreading.

The average number of new COVID-19 cases in Missouri now exceeds more than 2,000 each day, a rate that has more than doubled in the last two weeks.

Driven by the more transmissible delta variant, COVID hotspots are spreading beyond southwest Missouri, pushing up cases in central Missouri and neighboring parts of Arkansas and Kansas.

Even though the number of new vaccinations has increased slightly, Missouri still reports just 40.3% of residents are fully vaccinated — well below the 48.6% national rate and the 70% recommended by health experts.

Missouri’s Department of Health and Senior Services sent a warning Tuesday to residents of south-central Missouri that they are at increased risk of infection.

“Your counties are experiencing a surge in COVID-19 cases over the 14 days,” reads a health department Facebook post. “Disease is expected to move east from Southwest Missouri along Interstate 44."

Health experts warned that July 4 holiday gatherings could lead to further COVID spread, and two weeks after the holiday, Missouri is averaging 2,103 new cases and 1,461 COVID hospitalizations per day.

That's more than five times the number of new cases that Missouri was reporting at the start of June.

Five Missouri counties — Buchannan, Cole, Dallas, Taney and Wright — are among the top 10 counties in the United States for highest rates of new cases.

Cole County in central Missouri, where Jefferson City is located, has seen new cases increase more than 300% in the last two weeks.

The health department warned on Tuesday that Laclede, Phelps and Pulaski counties, which all have vaccinations rates under 33%, are quickly becoming hotspots as well, and residents should seek vaccines.

In recent weeks, vaccination rates have increased in both southern and southwestern Missouri counties, news that Gov. Mike Parson cheered on social media.

“Widespread vaccination is the best way to put COVID-19 behind us,” Parson wrote on Facebook. “And the vaccines are proving to be safe and effective against all identified variants."

However, vaccination rates have increased only slightly or declined in most of the rest of the state, according to a vaccine equity report released by the health department this week.

Vaccinations in the Kansas City region have picked up slightly, but Jackson County still has the second-highest number of unvaccinated residents in Missouri.

Hospitals in southwest Missouri continue to see an overwhelming demand for critical care. Monday’s tally of 221 COVID patients in intensive care is highest number the region has seen during the pandemic.

Steve Edwards, president and CEO of CoxHealth, tweeted on Tuesday that the Springfield hospital had 147 COVID patients this morning, and that the hospital had exceeded its capacity three weeks ago.

As a health care reporter, I aim to empower my audience to take steps to improve health care and make informed decisions as consumers and voters. I tell human stories augmented with research and data to explain how our health care system works and sometimes fails us. Email me at alexs@kcur.org.
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