Officials express frustration as COVID-19 numbers surge

Illinois' health director breaks down, Pandemic Task Force leader says stop arguing about numbers.

(KMOX) As Missouri sets another new daily COVID-19 record, and hospitals fill up, local officials are starting to show their frustration with the resistance of some to take the virus seriously and follow guidelines.

After announcing the latest case and death numbers during Friday's coronavirus briefing, Illinois Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike turned away from the podium, holding back tears.

While conducting his update, St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force leader Dr. Alex Garza said, "Just like all of you, I'm tired. I just want things to be normal again."

After reporting that the day's positivity rate puts the metro east on a path toward a return to tighter mitigation measures, St. Clair County Emergency Management Director Herb Simmons implored those doubting hospital capacity numbers to, "Please, stop and use some common sense when you make those statements like that."

On Saturday, Missouri reported 2,918 new COVID-19 cases, a new single-day high. It also reported that 113 more Missourians have died of the virus in the past week.

The Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force Satruday, reports new hospital admissions have jumped from 42 to 66.

The number of confirmed COVID patients in hospitals has increased from 353 to 356, while suspected cases fell from 110 to 102.

Franklin County, Missouri reported 62 new cases Saturday including a one year old and 11 teenagers.

On Friday, Dr. Garza reacted to claims that local hospitals are not as full as officials are saying. He says while they may not be nearing their 'authorized capacity', they are at the capacity their staffs can handle. "It is completely true," he said at his briefing, "that our hospitals are under stress. They are operating almost at full capacity. It is true that we're having to turn away transfers to our hospitals because our ICUs are full."

He expressed concern about how the stress on staff is impacting care. "We think the world of our caregivers. But, despite being called 'superheroes' they are also human, and they get tired and they get burned out. When that happens they're not at the top of their game, which we need them to be.

"Instead of us trying to argue about the numbers," he said, "let's do what we can to help out the people that are working in hospitals, that are taking care of our loved ones. And, that's a very simple thing: that's just to wear masks."

Dr. Ezike also expressed concern for hospital staffers. "So, if you're talking about 'covid fatigue' from having to keep wearing a mask, think about the 'covid fatigue' for healthcare workers, respiratory therapists who are going to have to go through this whole episode again of trying to fight for people's lives because we couldn't figure out how to control this virus by doing some of the simple measures that have been prescribed."

In St. Clair County, Board Chairman Mark Kern lamented that the region could again be facing a shutdown of indoor dining at restaurants and bars. "It's not good for local business. Many are not going to survive this next round."