It’s been a bad week for our state as a result of the coronavirus.
The number of people hospitalized for the coronavirus in Missouri reached another record Thursday, and the seven-day average positivity rate was more than triple the benchmark suggested by the World Health Organization (WHO), according to the Associated Press.
Missouri ranks fourth nationally in reported deaths over the past seven days, and eighth in the number of new cases. The state’s seven-day positivity rate was 17.9 percent. The national seven-day positivity rate was at 5.1 percent, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The WHO has set 5 percent as the benchmark.
Dave Dillon, spokesman for the Missouri Hospital Association, sounded an alarm bell.
“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.”
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, even suggested that we may need to rethink having Thanksgiving gatherings because of the surging cases in many parts of the country.
But perhaps the worst news of the week came Wednesday when the state reported that 56 residents of Missouri veterans homes died of COVID-19 between Sept. 1 and Monday.
State officials were aware a number of veterans had died in Missouri’s seven veterans homes in recent weeks due to the coronavirus, but the exact number wasn’t revealed until Wednesday.
Earlier this month, Gov. Mike Parson called for an external review of operations at the veterans homes signaling concern. That came after Parson visited one of the facilities in September and praised the Missouri Veterans Commission for setting the standard nationwide for safety in veterans homes during the pandemic.
The veterans’ deaths are a grim reminder of a virus that doesn’t distinguish between those who bravely served and sacrificed for our country and those who have not. It’s heartbreaking but not unexpected.
The residents of the veterans homes were vulnerable to the coronavirus. Early in the COVID-19 outbreak, it was understood the virus was particularly lethal to older adults and those with underlying health conditions. And it could spread more easily through congregate facilities, where many people live in a confined environment and workers move from room to room. That describes the majority of veterans living in the state facilities.
So perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised by the high number of deaths in veterans homes. Roughly 40 percent of all coronavirus-related deaths in the U.S. have been linked to staff and residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This would include Missouri’s veterans homes.
Don’t be shocked if the external review Parson ordered shows more could have been done to protect these veterans — just like other nursing home residents. It’s becoming clearer every day we have failed this population.
Every day we have to do more in this state to reverse the trend of this virus.
As Dillon said, the situation is critical.