Missouri and COVID -- Is It Safe to Come out Now?

AP Photo/Jeff Roberson

It’s been [checks archive] two-and-a-half months since I provided an update regarding Missouri’s COVID numbers. (There’s been a lot going on.) In the interim, Missouri’s COVID numbers have seen a significant uptick (mid-November through December) but have since fallen off and appear to be headed in the right direction. So, I wanted to provide an update as to the current reported data regarding reported cases, deaths, testing, and hospitalizations. Here’s where we currently stand:

Since the last update (again, per Worldometers), Missouri has fallen back three spots (among the 50 states plus DC) in reported cases (from 15th to 18th), with a total number of reported cases as of this morning (January 31, 2021) of 496,637, (up by 254,807 — or over 100% —  since November 14th.)  Missouri now has 80,919 reported cases per million persons (up from 39,402), which knocks it back down into 28th place (from 18th on November 14th.) (I do have to add a quick note on this — as of right now, Missouri is only including positive PCR tests in its tally, rather than PCR plus antigen tests. Per this link, there have been roughly 20,000 positive antigen tests, as well.)

There have now been 7,360 deaths in Missouri attributed to COVID-19. That’s up from 3,524 on November 14th (so by 3,836 — also an increase of over 100%) and Missouri has now moved up four spots into 18th place in terms of total (reported) COVID-related deaths. In terms of deaths per million, Missouri now sits at 1,199 (up from 574 on November 14th) but has dropped down one spot to 27th place on that metric.

Regarding testing, Missouri has now reported 4,815,665 tests administered (up from 2,719,980 two-and-a-half months ago), which moves it down two spots to 21st place in total tests. As for tests per million persons, Missouri has administered 784,639, which bumps it down six spots to 31st.

COVID hospitalizations have begun to decrease in recent weeks. The last reported data per the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services dashboard is 1,908 as of January 31st. (We were at 2,523 on November 13th.) Per DHSS, remaining total hospital bed capacity is 35%, remaining ICU bed capacity is 24%, and remaining ventilator capacity is 70%. Interestingly, those first two numbers are lower than they were in November (then it w 38% and 31%, respectively), which indicates that “capacity” is a moving target and/or that other illnesses and injuries are the reason those beds are needed at present.  (For a bit of added perspective, though there remains some stress on the hospital systems, the number of COVID patients currently hospitalized constitutes .6% of the number of active cases in Missouri. The number of COVID ICU patients equals .1% of the number of active cases. Further, COVID patients make up roughly 14% of those currently occupying hospital beds and 21% of those currently occupying ICU beds.)

Again, while the total number of reported cases of — and deaths attributed to — COVID-19 have increased measurably, we are now moving in the right direction. (I’ll have a separate piece regarding vaccines in the next day or two.) The rate of increase in reported cases has averaged .6% for the month of January. It was 1.0% for the month of December, and1.7%  for the month of November.

Missouri’s current rough case fatality rate (reported deaths divided by reported cases) has remained at 1.5% In comparison, the US rough case fatality rate is at 1.7% (down from 2.3% in the mid-November update), and neighboring Illinois’ sits at 1.9% (down from 2.0%).

Missouri’s positivity rate (total reported cases divided by total reported tests) was 8.3% in mid-November. It now sits at 10.3%, having climbed as high as 10.6% three weeks ago. The positivity rate for the U.S. as a whole has climbed to 8.6%. (It was at 6.7% in mid-November.)

In sum, Missouri is trending in the right direction. The headline, as you might surmise, is sarcasm. Not that I don’t take COVID seriously — I do. But I also take a dim view of much of the hype and politicization surrounding it, not least of which has been local and statewide officials’ efforts to “do something” by picking and choosing which businesses are “essential” or deemed safe enough to remain open in seemingly illogical (and not backed-by-the-science) fashion.

That’s been a hot topic here in the St. Louis area as the County Executive for St. Louis County, Sam Page, banned in-door dining at restaurants in mid-November, and only recently lifted the ban (as of January 4th). This, while restaurants in neighboring St. Charles County (and even St. Louis City) remained open. There has been litigation and a good deal of local news coverage over the issue. And now, the Missouri legislature is taking up the issue of limiting the degree to which local executives can implement such restrictions.

But what primarily prompted me to point this out was an exchange earlier today with my friend and RedState colleague, Jennifer Van Laar. Jen shared a photo from the last time she was able to eat inside at a restaurant in California (when indoor dining was momentarily permitted again in Orange County.)

As I noted in my response, here in Missouri, we’ve largely been able to dine indoors (subject to some occupancy limits and curfews) since May. Despite California’s having remained largely locked down this entire time, their cases per million in are at 83,440, which puts them in 24th place — four spots ahead of Missouri. Something to chew on….