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Missouri Covid rate drops to lowest in nation

Missouri has the lowest COVID-19 positivity rate in the nation, Gov. Mike Parson announced on Thursday. “Our seven-day positivity rate is below 4 percent, a long time since we’ve seen those kinds of numbers,” he stated.

Missouri vaccinators have now administered almost 2.2 million COVID shots, which includes the first and second doses. That’s 23 percent of Missouri’s population. The state Department of Health and Senior Services said 254,000 shots have been administered during the past week, an average of 36,000 per day.

The average daily number of new coronavirus cases in Missouri has dropped almost 90 percent since peaking in November. 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 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. “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.”

Hospitals now are admitting a smaller proportion of coronavirus patients over age 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 percent 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.

The news on the Covid rates comes as all residents in the state will now be eligible to get the Covid vaccine. Any adult in Missouri who wants to be vaccinated against COVID-19 will be eligible in early April, Gov. Mike Parson said.

Citing an expected increase in vaccine supply, Parson said it was necessary to ensure additional Missourians would be eligible to meet the expanding number of doses, according to “The Missouri Independent.” Parson previously said that the next tier may be activated as soon as 45 days after the latest phase, which opened March 15.

“However, with progress we’re currently seeing and vaccine supply expected to increase significantly in the coming weeks, we are well ahead of schedule,” the governor said during a press conference Thursday.

Phase 2, which includes additional essential workers such as the construction sector and higher education and vulnerable populations such as disproportionately affected racial groups and people experiencing homelessness, will activate March 29. Phase 3, which encompasses any Missourian who remains unvaccinated, will be opened up on April 9.

Combined, the phases will make approximately two million more Missourians eligible to receive the vaccine. In total, an estimated 4.5 million residents will be eligible once all phases are activated, with an estimated 40 percent of residents expected to not to take the vaccine.

In addition to the increased supply, more changes are on the horizon. By the week of March 29, the state also plans to shift its allocation strategy to sending doses based on the number of eligible residents who remain unvaccinated in each region, rather than based on the region’s share of the overall population. The new model will send thousands of more doses to the regions encompassing Kansas City and St. Louis.

–Dwight Widaman | Metro Voice