It’s been a tough week for the staff in the COVID-19 ward at Mercy Hospital Washington, said Dr. Ann-Elizabeth Mohart, the hospital’s chief medical officer.
“We have had quite a high mortality this week. It’s been very hard on our staff,” Mohart said, adding that she spent most of Thursday speaking with staff in the COVID ward and heard how difficult these deaths become for them.
“Some of (these patients) are here for months, and our staff becomes very attached to them and their family, so when they pass away it’s a very personal, personal process for our staff,” she said. To date, seven people have died from COVID-19 this month at Mercy Hospital Washington.
These deaths weren't reported in this week’s update from the Franklin County Health Department because confirmation of COVID-19-related deaths can take weeks and even months. No new deaths were reported this week.
The confirmed death toll from the virus stands at 226 in Franklin County, with an additional 29 deaths listed as probable.
Franklin County had 316 new confirmed COVID-19 cases between Dec. 11-17, according to the weekly health department update. Last week, 297 cases were reported.
“Overall, we’re just kind of holding steady,” Mohart said. “We’re definitely in another wave. Cases throughout the region and the nation are picking up substantially. So this is a trend overall of heading into another wave of increased cases. But as far as just in Franklin County, week to week, I’d say this is not a significant change.”
To date, there have been 14,507 confirmed COVID-19 cases reported in Franklin County, with an additional 3,727 cases listed as probable.
The U.S. has surpassed 800,000 deaths from COVID-19, according to national news outlets. That’s the highest recorded death toll from the virus of any country and the 20th highest death toll per capita in the world. It’s nearly twice the number of Americans who died in World War II.
“People hear that number, and it’s so big, they cannot comprehend what that actually means as far as the personal impact of each of these deaths on their families,” Mohart said. “It’s just a huge number, but I don’t want anyone to lose sight of the fact that every single one of these humans was a human just like you and me. And their loss, their death, that’s a void that will always be there for the people that loved them.”
The health department is reporting that 11 people from the county are hospitalized and in isolation for COVID-19. Mohart said Mercy Hospital Washington on Friday had 23 COVID-19 patients. Mercy’s number, unlike the health department’s, also includes patients who are no longer contagious with COVID-19 but are still suffering from complications such as COVID-19-caused-pneumonia, as well as people from nearby counties. Last Friday, Mohart reported that there were 20 of these patients at Mercy Hospital Washington.
The positivity rate — the percentage of COVID-19 tests that come back positive — decreased this week. It was 14 percent in the county from Dec. 11-17, according to the health department. Last week, it was 17.1 percent.
“That probably just means more people are getting tested,” Mohart said.
Mohart is concerned about the coming months in the pandemic. She anticipates a “perfect storm” approaching with influenza intensifying in the region — she said it has picked up in the past week; the new omicron variant of COVID-19, which has now been found as nearby as St. Louis; and the winter months typically are hospitals’ busiest, even before the pandemic.
Mohart said omicron hasn’t been identified in Franklin County, but she thinks it’s arrived and just not yet been detected.
“I can guarantee you it is here,” she said. “It’s just a matter of time before we get that confirmation.”
Meanwhile, 49.3 percent of Franklin County residents have been fully vaccinated against the virus and 53.1 percent have received at least one dose, according to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. Statewide, 52.9 percent of Missourians are fully vaccinated and 59.7 percent have received at least one dose, according to DHSS.