FILE - Gov. Mike Parson

Gov. Mike Parson speaks at a news conference on Tuesday, May 12, 2020.

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(The Center Square) – More than 700 Missourians have been hospitalized with COVID-19 since Nov. 1 and, as of Friday morning, only 41 percent of the state’s hospital beds were unoccupied.

That’s an alarming – and sustained – trend that’s only going to accelerate, public health officials warn, unless the state acts.

The St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force (MPTF) Friday called on Missouri Gov. Mike Parson to issue a statewide mask mandate and "safer at home" order before hospitals are overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients. 

Sisters of St. Mary (SSM) Health Chief Community Health Officer Dr. Alex Garza, who leads the MPTF, said Friday morning that if cases continues to surge, hospitals in many regions of the state will reach capacity in early December.

"If we stay on the path we’re on for just two more weeks,” he said, “we will not have the staff we need to take care for patients.” 

Parson Thursday reiterated he has no plans to impose a statewide mask mandate or ‘Safer At Home’ order.

“It’s up to the local levels to be able to do that,” he said. “That’s why you have elections.”

Unless Missourians do the right things in protecting themselves and others, Parson said, it doesn’t matter what government does. 

“We have to do our part. It’s time for all of us to take responsibility,” he said. “We know in the last 30 days these numbers have increased more than we ever thought they would. That’s the hard fact of where this virus is going.”

According to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) Show Me Strong’ COVID-19 dashboard’s Friday update, 4,005 new infections were reported Thursday, marking the fourth-straight day and, sixth day in the last seven, that daily tallies have topped 4,000.

That’s down from Thursday’s DOH update, which reported 4,603 new COVID-19 cases diagnosed on Wednesday, the highest single-day case total recorded in the state.

Missouri’s seven-day rolling average for new infections topped 4,000 for the first time ever, according to the DHSS, which reported 20 new deaths linked to the virus Thursday, raising the state’s toll to 3,359 known fatalities.

Most alarming are hospitalization numbers. The DHSS reported Friday 80 new virus-related hospitalizations, raising to 2,328 the number of Missourians hospitalized with the disease since March. 

St. Louis County, meanwhile, is unilaterally imposing its own restrictions. County Executive Sam Page Friday announced the county will impose a four-week “safer at home” order starting 12:01 a.m. Tuesday.

Beginning Tuesday, St. Louis County residents should only leave home to go to work or school, exercise, seek medical care or shop for groceries and supplies.

“I wish this wasn't where we had to go, but it is the virus continues to rage across our country and across our community, the national masking order early on would have helped us a great deal,” Page said. “Even a national strategy on COVID-19 would have helped us a great deal. But this is where we are today.”

Under the order, businesses, including gyms, and places of worship, will be reduced to 25 percent occupancy from 50 percent and masks will be required. School-sponsored youth sports can continue under current guidelines, and face coverings must be worn by everyone older than 5 when they leave the house. 

Bars and restaurants will be closed to inside patrons, although outside dining and take-out food and cocktails are allowed.

“Restaurants and bars are struggling,” Page said. “Please support them. These are the folks that are hustling to make sure that you have to-go meal that you can enjoy in your home. They have bills to pay as well.”

This article originally ran on thecentersquare.com.

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