As COVID-19 cases continue to spike in Missouri and across the Midwest, state officials say they aren’t discouraged.
At his weekly briefing Thursday, Gov. Mike Parson discussed the continued necessity for coronavirus testing, vaccines and increased resources for health care personnel.
Parson emphasized that health care workers have been working on the front lines for nearly nine months.
“They continue to rise to the challenge and take care of Missourians, and we cannot thank them enough,” Parson said.
He reminded Missouri residents that though “COVID fatigue” has set in for many people, it’s important to remain diligent and “continue to be disciplined in our efforts, especially with winter, flu season and the holiday seasons” around the corner.
“Like I’ve said since day one, we must do our part and take responsibility for our actions,” he said.
Nearing the top of the hill
Randall Williams, director of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, said that currently, Missouri is on “the steep part of the curve, going up a hill” in terms of the pandemic. But we’re close to the top, he said.
The top of the “hill” in question: the vaccine.
The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services reported more than 3,500 new COVID-19 cases in the last 24 hours, as well as the second-largest ingestion of tests and data Wednesday night, at roughly 22,000.
Williams said this isn’t indicative of a backlog in testing — it’s the result of community spread.
“We believe that people are contracting (COVID-19) from people they know,” Williams said. “It’s not going to Schnuck’s or Walmart as much as it is the six people that you know — your son, your daughter, your family members, your friends — people you gather with.”
That’s why it’s so important, Williams said, that Missouri residents continue to social distance, wear masks and wash their hands while waiting for a vaccine.
Williams said he spoke with Gen. Gustave Perna, chief operating officer for Operation Warp Speed, on Tuesday. Operation Warp Speed is a partnership among the federal health department, the CDC and other governmental organizations. The operation’s goal is to “produce and deliver 300 million doses of safe and effective vaccines with the initial doses available by January 2021,” according to the health department’s website.
Perna anticipates that biopharmaceutical developer Pfizer, located in Chesterfield, will apply for emergency use authorization for a COVID-19 vaccine at the end of November. Once approved, the vaccine will be distributed to states based on cases and population, including Missouri.
“We think that the vaccine is the best way to get back to normal, and we’re very encouraged about that,” Williams said.
Parson said that although Missouri hospitals currently have an adequate number of hospital beds, health care professionals are closely monitoring data and are prepared to take action if it becomes an issue.
Staffing in hospitals is an ongoing problem, and one of the primary limiting factors in mitigating the spread of the virus. Parson added that his administration continues to work with the Missouri Hospital Association to deal with staffing shortages.
He said the state allocated over $5 million to expand broadband for telehealth treatment across the state, allowing more doctors to care for patients remotely.
To date, Missouri has received 565,000 Abbot rapid antigen tests from the federal government. Roughly 300,000 tests have been distributed thus far, including 214,000 tests across 293 public and private K-12 schools, Parson said.