BALTIMORE, M.D. — The COVID-19 death toll in the United States has surpassed 350,000 as experts anticipate another surge in coronavirus cases and deaths stemming from holiday gatherings over Christmas and New Year’s.
Data compiled by Johns Hopkins University shows the U.S. passed the threshold early Sunday morning. More than 20 million people in the country have been infected. The U.S. has begun using two coronavirus vaccines to protect health care workers and nursing home residents and staff but the rollout of the inoculation program has been criticized as being slow and chaotic.
Multiple states have reported a record number of cases over the past few days, including North Carolina and Arizona. Mortuary owners in hard-hit Southern California say they’re being inundated with bodies.
The U.S. by far has reported the most deaths from COVID-19 in the world, followed by Brazil, which has reported more than 195,000 deaths.
Missouri approaches 400,000 cases
Missouri is approaching 400,000 cases of the coronavirus as hospitalizations continue on the high plateau the state has seen since mid-November. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that the addition Saturday of 2,157 new cases brought the state’s total to 399,456.
Missouri’s seven-day average of daily new case numbers has generally declined from a peak of 4,723 on Nov. 20, though it is still far higher than any level seen in the spring or summer. It rose slightly over the past few days, to 2,688 on Saturday compared with 2,183 on Wednesday.
Kansas City area sees worst month ever for COVID-19 deaths
December was the deadliest month of the coronavirus pandemic in the Kansas City area, where an average of 11 people died each day from COVID-19.
The Kansas City metropolitan area recorded 342 COVID-19 deaths through Dec. 30, the Kansas City Star reported. All told, 1,353 area residents have died from the virus since the onset of the pandemic. The metro area includes Kansas City and Jackson, Clay and Platte counties in Missouri and Johnson and Wyandotte counties in Kansas.
In Missouri, the virus has claimed 5,519 lives, including 28 new deaths reported Thursday by the state Department of Health and Senior Services. The state also cited 3,714 new confirmed cases, bringing the total to 392,570 since the pandemic began.
Hospitalization numbers have improved over the past couple of weeks, but experts worry another surge could follow holiday gatherings. The health department said in-patient bed capacity statewide was at 29%, and intensive care unit bed capacity was at 25%.
The situation was even more concerning in the St. Louis area. Dr. Alex Garza, head of the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force, said hospitals were at 84% capacity and ICUs were at 90% capacity.
“As we enter this new year our ICUs are still operating at near-full capacity and there is little room left if we were to have a surge in patients,” Garza said at a news conference Wednesday.
Garza said the recent decline in recorded COVID-19 cases in the region may have simply reflected that fewer people were taking the time to get tested around the holidays.
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