JEFFERSON CITY, Missouri (KMIZ)
More Missourians are catching and being hospitalized with COVID-19 as a new variant spreads across the state and country.
Several counties in central Missouri are reporting a growing number of cases, and a hospital official said medical services were overwhelmed by a shortage of help.
There are 99 people in Boone County hospitals with COVID, eight of whom are on ventilators, according to the Columbia / Boone Department of Public Health and Human Services dashboard. The healthcare system is currently in the yellow category, which means hospitals are operating within their capacity but do not accept patient transfers.
Coronavirus hospitalizations have risen sharply since mid-November, roughly doubling during that time to an average of more than 2,000 patients per day. Health officials warn that could continue to rise and approach the record levels seen last winter.
There are 642 active COVID cases in Boone County since the dashboard was last updated on Tuesday. Boone County is the 10th in the state for most COVID cases, with a 10.2% positivity rate.
The Cole County Health Department reported 46 new cases of COVID on Tuesday, making it the second day in a row the county has reported more than 40 new cases.
The most recent state profile report has nearly all of Missouri’s counties in a high transmission area. Meanwhile, the United States set its daily record for new coronavirus infections on Tuesday.
The Biden administration launched a plan earlier this month to combat the omicron variant by offering free at-home tests. However, the availability of COVID tests is declining in some areas.
The Department of Health and Seniors Services provides free COVID testing. Some locations may be closed this week due to holidays. The only location in the middle of Missouri is American Legion parking lot # 1423. Tests at the Jefferson City site will be available on January 6 and 23, 2022.
The state too will send tests to households who ask them – a Missouri program started in May.
Mid-Missouri pharmacists told ABC 17 News that home tests fly off the shelves as soon as they’re stored. Bill Morrissey, director of Kilgore’s medical pharmacy, told ABC 17 that the tests are completed by 2 p.m. on the day they are stored.
Pharmacies say they have seen an increase in demand for home COVID tests as the omicron variant has become more dominant. The first case of the omicron variant in Missouri was confirmed in November and has since been discovered through statewide sewer testing.
Dr Robin Blount of Boone Health told ABC 17 News on Tuesday that doctors, nurses and other hospital staff are catching the highly contagious variant of omicron, exacerbating existing staff shortages in hospitals and making it more difficult response to new COVID patients.
Blount said at least 40 staff members have tested positive for COVID and must now self-isolate. The suggested isolation and quarantine period for healthcare workers was recently changed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to help alleviate healthcare and other staffing shortages. The CDC announced Monday that workers who tested positive only needed to self-isolate for five days if they didn’t show symptoms.
Check back for updates to this developing story and watch ABC 17 News at 5 and 6.