251 new COVID-19 cases this week as county's vaccination rate ticks upward

Four more Franklin County residents have died from COVID-19, according to a report from the Franklin County Health Department.

The deaths of a 58-year-old man from Sullivan, a 66-year-old woman from Washington, an 80-year-old man from Washington and an 82-year-old woman from Washington were confirmed by the state health department as being caused by COVID-19. All four people died in August.

Since the start of the pandemic, 187 Franklin County residents have died from COVID-19. An additional 32 deaths remain under review by the state health department. The review process, which can take months to complete, allows for public health officials to confirm the cause of death, according to previous reporting by The Missourian.

Statewide, more than 10,650 Missourians have died from COVID-19, including 48 deaths confirmed in the past week.

The weekly report from the county health department also included news that 251 county residents had tested positive for COVID-19 between Aug. 28 and Sept. 3.

This report brings the county’s total for confirmed COVID-19 cases to 11,196.

Friday’s report reflects a significant uptick in cases as more than 1,100 cases were reported in August, with 476 cases being reported in the past two weeks.

An additional 2,768 people are listed as having “probable cases,” according to the health department.

Of those individuals having new cases reported Friday, the average age was about 35. Sixty-eight, or 27 percent, of the new cases were individuals younger than 18. Sixty-four percent of the new cases were adults between the ages of 18 and 65 years old. Nine percent of the new cases were people over 65 years old.

Fifteen people are hospitalized for COVID-19 in Franklin County, according to the health department.

The seven-day rolling positivity rate — the percentage of COVID-19 tests that come back positive — was 14.1 percent, which is a little higher than last week’s rate of 13.8 percent, according to the health department.

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services reports that, as of Friday morning, 52 percent of the state’s residents have at least begun the vaccination process, and 45.4 percent of Missourians are fully vaccinated. In Franklin County, that number is a little lower. The state health department reports that 50.3 percent of Franklin County residents have taken at least their first of two doses as of Friday morning, and 45.3 percent are fully vaccinated.

Dr. Ann-Elizabeth Mohart, the chief medical officer at Mercy Hospital Washington, said when looking at the data, she and her colleagues look closest at the numbers of new cases and the positivity rate.

“Unfortunately, both those numbers are going in the wrong direction,” Mohart said. “They’re not going up tremendously, just a tiny bit, but they’re both up, which means that we are still seeing increasing cases in our area.”

She said they’re pretty confident at Mercy that most of these cases are caused by newer variants of the virus such as the delta variant. She said the delta variant is “probably still the predominant strain that’s driving those numbers right now.” She also said that the hospital’s intensive care doctors — those treating the sickest of these patients — say with these new variants, patients tend to get sicker faster and have more severe symptoms.

Mercy is seeing younger patients each week, Mohart said. This week’s average age among COVID-19 patients was 35, and last week’s was 37. She also said the hospital is seeing more severe symptoms across all age groups.

“Unfortunately, we have some very, very sick patients now who would be considered young. They’re in their 40s,” she said.

Mohart showed more optimism when it came to the county’s vaccination rates, which currently stand at around half of the county and half of the state.

“Just in the past week, both personally and looking at the general statistics, we’ve seen a lot of people coming in for their vaccinations,” she said. “We’ve said from day one, ‘This is our ticket out of this pandemic.’ ”