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Two Springfield hospitals reported 27 COVID-19 related deaths over the weekend — and 132 so far this month — as the surge of infections caused by the highly contagious Delta variant continues to burn across the region. 

In Texas County, the cases also continue climbing. The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services reported 78 positives in the period July 18-24. The Texas County Health Department’s data always tracks higher than the state — its number was 123 and the death count increased by one, according to its figures Friday. It is 26 since the pandemic began. In recent days, there has been an increase in county deaths.

Of the top 10 counties in Missouri in positive cases in the last seven days, five are in south-central Missouri: Douglas, Wright, Phelps, Shannon and Laclede counties.

Douglas County is the fourth worst county in the United States; about 16 percent are completely vaccinated.

And for the second week in a row, Texas County was in the national spotlight last week with segment on a cable television channel that highlighted a Raymondville resident, Christy Henry, a nursing instructor, hospitalized in Columbia with COVID-19. Her husband passed away Sunday with COVID-19, where he also was hospitalized in Boone County. Earlier, a respiratory therapist from Texas County Memorial Hospital was interviewed live.

TIPS FOR PROTECTION

The health department offered this steps to protect Texas County residents:

•Get a COVID-19 vaccine.

•Wear a mask that covers your nose and mouth to precent spread.

•Avoid crowds and poorly ventilated indoor spaces.

•Wash hands often with soap and water and use hand sanitizer if soap and water aren’t available.

VACCINATIONS INCREASE

As cases climbs locally, there also has been a surge in the number of countians being vaccinated. On Tuesday, 464 had received doses in the past week. The vaccination rate greatly lags Missouri and the country; about 21.6 percent are fully vaccinated. About 26.2 percent have receiving one dose. Health officials say the region is hard hit because of the low rate. The positivity rate posted by the state Tuesday was 30 percent.

Administrators in the region expressed alarm, including Texas County Memorial Hospital CEO Chris Strickland, who said the recent surge in cases has taken a toll on his staff. Something as simple as reaching out to healthcare workers would be beneficial, he said.

“COVID has significantly increased in Texas County over the past few months.  To put it in perspective, from January 2020 to June 2021 we have seen 15 deaths due to COVID.  In July 2021 alone, we have already seen six deaths, and COVID has not yet peaked in our region,” said Strickland.  “So far, we are seeing greatly increased numbers of hospitalized COVID patients of all ages, and as young as 19.  If you are experiencing symptoms, or are having complications from COVID, please do not wait to be seen by a provider.  We are seeing much higher acuity patients because people are waiting longer to come in to the ER or the clinic.

“I believe getting the vaccine is a personal choice, but I am also 100% for the vaccine.  Social media has so much misinformation about this virus and the vaccine.  We present the public with scientifically researched medical information in order to inform citizens to be able to make the appropriate choices for themselves and their families.  I can say that the high number of unvaccinated individuals is the biggest contributing factor to why our COVID cases are so high here in Texas County, and in the state of Missouri.  The staff here at TCMH are well trained and have the technology to treat COVID patients, but the staff is overwhelmed and simply exhausted.  We are contacting the state and applying for staffing with the assistance of Rep. Bennie Cook, but so is every other hospital in the state of Missouri.  Do your part and get vaccinated to help stop the spread.”

 LARGEST HOSPITALS HIT HARD

Steve Edwards, CEO of CoxHealth in Springfield, tweeted Monday morning that “we have lost 15 more lives to COVID from Friday-Sunday at CoxHealth. We have lost 72 so far in July. All unvaccinated.”

At nearby Mercy Springfield, there were 12 COVID-19 deaths, according to Erik Frederick, the hospital’s chief administrative officer. That brings the total number of COVID deaths at Mercy Springfield to 60 since July 2, he tweeted. 

“This is very hard for our team,” Frederick tweeted. “I said the same last year. The difference now is that most of this could be prevented. That adds an extra layer of anguish.”

Meanwhile on Sunday, Lake Expo published a letter in the town’s newspaper to the community from administrators at Lake Regional Hospital in Osage Beach detailing the toll of the virus in recent weeks and pleading for people to get vaccinated. 

“We have experienced 22 COVID-related deaths in the past 23 days,” the letter said. “That’s 22 grieving families who have looked to our team for answers and support, a heartbreaking burden for our caregivers who have dedicated their lives to healing.”

Picture of nursing giving vaccination.
Vaccinations are lagging in south-central Missouri.

STATEWIDE DATA

The Delta variant surge is also showing no signs of abating. On Monday morning, the state health department reported 1,115 new COVID-19 cases. The seven-day average of reported cases is 2,406, up 16 percent from a week ago and 210% from a month ago.

Forty-seven percent of Missourians have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and 41 percent are fully vaccinated, according to state data. Nationally, 57 percent have received at least one dose, and 49 percent are fully vaccinated, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. For those 18 and up, the number is 69 and 60 percent, respectively.

Hospitalizations statewide stood at 1,684 as of Saturday, rising on average 35 per day. The metric was higher in Springfield than at any time since tracking began. Out-state Missouri was ebbing somewhat.

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