The number of patients hospitalized because of COVID-19 across Missouri reached a record of more than 1,400 on Monday and Tuesday while the state's public data dashboard was silent for four days because of technical issues.
Missouri's online COVID-19 data dashboard was reactivated around 6 p.m. Wednesday after not working since Saturday morning. The new data shows the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations eclipses previous records set the week before, when hospitalizations topped 1,300 for the first time on Oct. 7 and remained that high until the state's last dashboard entry for Oct. 9.
The updated dashboard revealed that Missouri's hospitalization numbers continued to rise, reaching 1,404 on Monday and 1,413 on Tuesday.
"Whether we're in a second wave, or the second crest of the first, our current situation is critical, especially outside of the well-resourced metro areas," said Dave Dillon, spokesman for the Missouri Hospital Association. The association's weekly update on Wednesday showed the biggest increases were seen in the northern and southern regions of the state.
In neighboring Illinois, new cases of coronavirus are being reported at the highest pace since the pandemic began. The state on Wednesday reported 2,862 new cases, pushing the seven-day average to a new peak of 2,852.
Prior to this week, the previous peak of 2,565 hit on May 4 and May 7, data shows. This is the eighth day in a row the state has seen over 2,600 new cases.
Illinois also added 49 new COVID-19 deaths, the highest number since June 24, when 63 new deaths were reported.
That number pushed the seven-day average of daily deaths in Illinois to 28. The average has been on the rise this month after staying below 20 for July, August and much of September, data shows. Since the pandemic began, 9,074 Illinoisans have lost their lives to COVID-19.
Across Missouri, the availability of patient beds in intensive care units continues to decrease, the hospital association reported.
ICU beds available in the state's northwest region fell to just 19% of the total. Across the state, less than 31% of ICU beds were available.
Hospitals in southwest and central Missouri are also reaching capacity in their intensive care units, Dillon said. "All hospitals are working to manage to their resources, but staff and space are at a premium and these resources are finite."
The hospital association warned that the percentage of coronavirus tests coming back positive is more than 10% in all regions of the state, a dangerous sign of widespread community transmission.
Missourians must reduce transmission of the virus by social distancing, wearing a mask and washing hands, Dillon said. "Until we accomplish that, we won't be able to address the hospital utilization challenge."
The St. Louis area and northeast Missouri are leading the state in controlling the rate of infections, he said, but St. Louis area hospitals on Wednesday reported troublesome signs.
The St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force reported a big jump in hospital admissions -- to 63, up from 44 the day before.
The increase pushed the seven-day average of daily admissions to 44, which has been on a steady rise since Oct. 5, when the average was 34, according to task force's data.
The seven-day average number of patients in area hospitals with COVID-19 increased to 287. That figure has been on the rise since Oct. 8 when the average number was 249.
'Can't Let Up'
Illinois is also showing other concerning numbers, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said at a news conference Wednesday.
The state is divided into 11 health regions, all of which have seen an increasing percentage of coronavirus tests coming back positive, Pritzker said. The statewide positivity rate has grown by more than one full percentage point in the last week.
Hospital admissions for patients who have or are suspected of having COVID-19 have also increased over the past week in most regions, he said.
"We are still doing better than many of our neighbors, but we can't let up," he said, "and these numbers are indicating a concerning direction."
One region of particular concern, Pritzker said, is Region 5, which includes 20 counties in the southern-most part of Illinois.
The region surpassed an 8% positivity rate, up from 5.8% two weeks ago, he said. The governor warned that three consecutive days over 8% will trigger state-imposed restrictions on restaurants, bars and gatherings.
Region 1 in northern Illinois has been under restrictions since Oct. 3 but is still reporting an average positivity rate over 10%, Pritzker said.
He directed a message to the region: "Wear a mask. Keep some physical distance. Encourage those who flout public health guidance to act with consideration for the entire community."