COVID-19 surges and influx of younger, unvaccinated patients reported at some Missouri hospitals

In areas of Missouri experiencing COVID-19 surges, particularly in spots where vaccination rates are low, hospitals are being stretched thin.

Average daily COVID-19 cases in Missouri have climbed 53 percent over the past two weeks, while nationwide cases have declined 15 percent, reports The New York Times.  

The number of COVID-19 patients at Springfield, Mo.-based CoxHealth hospital has quadrupled in the last six weeks, said Amanda Hedgpeth, vice president of hospital operations, according to NPR. Patients tend to be mostly unvaccinated and in their 30s and 40s, Ms. Hedgpeth said.

CoxHealth said June 29, 2021, that a few COVID-19 patients were recently transferred to hospitals in St. Louis, reports the Springfield News-Leader. CoxHealth reported around 100 hospitalized COVID-19 patients June 29, said Steve Edwards, president and CEO. 

"For the first time, we've been on COVID diversion," Mr. Edwards said, citing high infection rates in southwest Missouri and staffing issues. The system released a statement June 18 warning the community that rising hospitalizations may lead the hospital to diverting patients.

Mercy Hospital Springfield (Mo.) had 104 COVID-19 patients June 29, Craig McCoy, president of the hospital, told the News-Leader. The hospital has moved patients around its four-state system, attempting to keep patients as close to home as possible.

Hospitals aren't as well-staffed as during last winter's COVID-19 surge, Dave Dillon, spokesperson for the Missouri Hospital Association, told the News-Leader. Many pandemic contracts between hospitals and temporary workers have expired.

"It is fair to say that hospitals are already stretched to address pent-up demand for health services that were curtailed last year, and into spring," Mr. Dillon added.

Andrew Pekosz, PhD, professor at Baltimore-based Johns Hopkins University, told NPR, "If we don't really make an effort to boost the vaccination rates in this country, we will be setting up for a larger surge in the fall."

"I don't understand why people won't get vaccinated," said Mr. McCoy of Mercy Springfield. "I haven't heard a good reason yet." 


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