By TOMMY REZAC
St. Joseph Post
Mosaic Life Care is seeing a rising number of COVID-19 patients in its St. Joseph hospital as Buchanan County continues to see a rise in cases.
As of Tuesday, Mosaic reports 26 COVID patients system-wide - 25 in St. Joseph and one in Maryville.
Chief medical officer Dr. Davin Turner says the vast majority of these inpatients are unvaccinated, and the number of those hospitalized is likely to go up.
"If you look back over the history in our hospital and the number of patients we've had, we can expect to see 30-60 COVID patients in our hospital over the next several weeks at one time," Turner said.
The vaccination rate in Buchanan County has been stagnant for weeks. Just 19.1 percent of the county's population is fully vaccinated.
"That's really what hurts the most," Turner admitted. "To know that a vaccine is available, it's very effective and folks aren't taking that vaccine to help protect themselves."
There have been 77 new cases in Buchanan County since Thursday. There was also an additional virus-related death in that time. The victim was a man in his 60s. That puts the Buchanan County virus death toll at 186.
"It had been several weeks since we had anyone pass from COVID," Turner said. "It was a very sad day to know that once again, we have people in our hospital who are dying from this disease."
Of the 26 COVID patients being treated at Mosaic, only two of them are fully vaccinated. Ninety percent of the inpatients are above the age of 50.
Turner says the vaccine won't stop people from contracting the virus altogether, but it's still the best defense against falling seriously ill or dying from the virus.
"The vaccine is still your best chance," he said. "Even if you contract COVID, you will not become severely ill and succumb to your illness."
Those who are older and have underlying health conditions are still at greatest risk of dying from COVID, but with the Delta variant confirmed in Buchanan County and other parts of northwest Missouri, Turner says more cases have been showing up in the younger population.
"So, we're not seeing younger people become hospitalized, but we're seeing increased positivity rates in kids who are under 17," Turner said, pointing out that those who are under age 12 still aren't eligible for the vaccine.
The St. Joseph Health Department will start offering walk-in, on-site COVID vaccinations on a regular basis, starting July 1 from 8 - 11 a.m. and from 1-4 p.m. That'll be going on Monday-Friday.
The vaccine is also readily available at Mosaic's clinics and at local pharmacies.
Turner doesn't expect to see a big surge in vaccinations in the immediate future, but he hopes that people take steps to protect themselves and others as Buchanan County and other parts of Missouri deal with this recent COVID surge.
"Get vaccinated," Turner said. "Use common sense. Use good hand hygiene. If you don't know (someone's vaccination) status, wear a mask. Protect yourself. We don't want you to become ill. We don't want you to become hospitalized."
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