By TOMMY REZAC
St. Joseph Post
The level of new COVID-19 cases in Buchanan County is not as high as it once was, but St. Joseph health officials are monitoring a slight increase.
Buchanan County went from averaging 5.83 cases per day in April to 12.37 per day in May. St. Joseph health department spokesperson Stephanie Malita says they're watching this closely, but she says these numbers still aren't as bad as it was during the height of the pandemic.
"So, it's trending upwards a little bit," Malita told St. Joseph Post, "but, we're not, again, seeing the hospitalization rate or the death rate. We're not as worried about it as we were six months ago or even three months ago."
Statewide, Missouri has reported more than 8,600 cases in the last seven days. Hospitalizations have gone up a bit as well statewide, with 574 patients hospitalized with COVID.
Locally, the hospitalization and COVID death rate remain low. St. Joseph health officials report one virus-related fatality in May and one so far in June, while Mosaic Life Care reports fewer than 10 patients systemwide.
The good news is more people are starting to get their first COVID-19 shot and booster in Buchanan County.
"We have seen an increase of over 450 people who have now moved into the fully vaccinated category," Malita said, "and about the same amount who have had their first dose."
A step in the right direction, but Malita says Buchanan County's vaccination rate lags behind with still less than 40 percent of residents fully vaccinated.
"That's low certainly compared to throughout the state and nationwide," she said. "So, we would like to see that increase. Primary care providers are offering the vaccine, pharmacies are offering vaccine, we offer it here. There are many, many places where people can get vaccinated."
Malita says another COVID surge is possible, but she believes hospitals and medical practitioners are better prepared to handle it now than ever before.
"Obviously, our hope is we don't see a surge that leads to higher hospitalizations and so on in the future," Malita said. "But, it could happen again. I feel like logistically, we're better prepared or have learned from the last couple of years. But, it's a matter of everyone pitching in and doing what they need to do."
But, in order to prevent another COVID surge, Malita says those safety practices remain the same, and notes that everybody can do their part in keeping each other safe.
"Stay home if you're ill and find out for certain what you have when you're not feeling well," Malita said. "Continue to wash hands, wear masks if you're in a public area if you're in close contact with people you're unfamiliar with."
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