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35% of PCR COVID tests coming back positive, Missouri health officials say

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35% of PCR COVID tests coming back positive, Missouri health officials say

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – More than 1-in-3 PCR COVID-19 tests are coming back positive in Missouri, state health officials said Sunday, as the highly-infectious omicron variant shows no sign of loosening its grip on our collective health.

According to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS), the state has recorded 1,024,477 cumulative cases of SARS-CoV-2—an increase of 7,219 positive cases (PCR testing only)—and 13,872 total deaths as of Sunday, Jan. 23, an increase of 1 from the day prior. That’s a case fatality rate of 1.35%.

It’s important to keep in mind that not all cases and deaths announced on a particular day occurred in the last 24 hours.

(Source: Missouri Dept. of Health and Senior Services)

The state has administered 81,564 doses—including booster shots—of the vaccine in the last 7 days (this metric is subject to a delay, meaning the last three days are not factored in). The highest vaccination rates are among people over 65.

State health officials report 62.2% of the total population has received at least one dose of the vaccine. Approximately 73.2% of all adults 18 years of age and older have initiated the process.

Vaccination remains the safest way to achieve herd immunity. Herd immunity for COVID-19 requires 80% to 90% of the population to have immunity, either by vaccination or recovery from the virus.

Just 5.96% of 3.37 million fully vaccinated Missourians (or 200,922 people) have tested positive for COVID-19 since Jan. 1, 2021. And 994 people (or 0.03%) of those vaccinated individuals have died from the virus.

The first doses were administered in Missouri on Dec. 13, 2020.

The city of Joplin and St. Louis County have vaccinated at least 60% of their populations. St. Louis City, Kansas City, and Independence, as well as the counties of St. Charles, Boone, Atchison, Jackson, Franklin, and Cole, have at least 50% of their populations fully vaccinated.

The Bureau of Vital Records at DHSS performs a weekly linkage between deaths to the state and death certificates to improve quality and ensure all decedents that died of COVID-19 are reflected in the systems. As a result, the state’s death toll will see a sharp increase from time to time. Again, that does not mean a large number of deaths happened in one day; instead, it is a single-day reported increase.

At the state level, DHSS does track probable or pending COVID deaths. However, those numbers are not added to the state’s death count until confirmed in the disease surveillance system either by the county or through analysis of death certificates. FOX 2 does not include probable or pending numbers.

The 7-day rolling average for cases in Missouri sits at 9,999; yesterday, it was 8,972. Exactly one month ago, the state rolling average was 2,563. 

Approximately 51.9% of all reported cases are for individuals 39 years of age and younger. The state has further broken down the age groups into smaller units. The 18 to 24 age group has 122,873 recorded cases, while 25 to 29-year-olds have 89,473 cases.

People 80 years of age and older account for approximately 40.6% of all recorded deaths in the state.

Month / Year Missouri COVID cases*
(reported that month)
March 2020 1,327
April 2020 6,235
May 2020 5,585
June 2020 8,404
July 2020 28,772
August 2020 34,374
September 2020 41,416
October 2020 57,073
November 2020 116,576
December 2020 92,808
January 2021 66,249
February 2021 19,405
March 2021 11,150
April 2021 12,165
May 2021 9,913
June 2021 12,680
July 2021 42,780
August 2021 60,275
September 2021 45,707
October 2021 33,855
November 2021 37,594
December 2021 74,376
January 2022 208,646
(Source: Missouri Dept. of Health and Senior Services)

Missouri has administered 9,082,645 PCR tests for COVID-19 over the entirety of the pandemic and as of Jan. 22, 20.8% of those tests have come back positive. People who have received multiple PCR tests are not counted twice, according to the state health department.

According to the state health department’s COVID-19 Dashboard, “A PCR test looks for the viral RNA in the nose, throat, or other areas in the respiratory tract to determine if there is an active infection with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. A positive PCR test means that the person has an active COVID-19 infection.”

The Missouri COVID Dashboard no longer includes the deduplicated method of testing when compiling the 7-day moving average of positive tests. The state is now only using the non-deduplicated method, which is the CDC’s preferred method. That number is calculated using the number of tests taken over the period since many people take multiple tests. Under this way of tabulating things, Missouri has a 35.1% positivity rate as of Jan. 20. Health officials exclude the most recent three days to ensure data accuracy when calculating the moving average.

The 7-day positivity rate was 4.5% on June 1, 15.0% on Aug. 1, and 13.2% on Dec. 1, 2021.

As of Jan. 20, Missouri is reporting 3,738 COVID hospitalizations and a rolling 7-day average of 3,741. The remaining inpatient hospital bed capacity sits at 15% statewide. The state’s public health care metrics lag behind by three days due to reporting delays, especially on weekends. Keep in mind that the state counts all beds available and not just beds that are staffed by medical personnel.

Across Missouri, 699 COVID patients are in ICU beds, leaving the state’s remaining intensive care capacity at 15%.

If you have additional questions about the coronavirus, the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services is available at 877-435-8411.

As of Jan. 23, the CDC identified 70,206,220 cases of COVID-19 and 862,494 deaths across all 50 states and 9 U.S.-affiliated districts, jurisdictions, and affiliated territories, for a national case-fatality rate of 1.23%.

How do COVID deaths compare to other illnesses, like the flu or even the H1N1 pandemics of 1918 and 2009? It’s a common question.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), preliminary data on the 2018-2019 influenza season in the United States shows an estimated 35,520,883 cases and 34,157 deaths; that would mean a case-fatality rate of 0.09 percent. Case-fatality rates on previous seasons are as follows: 0.136 percent (2017-2018), 0.131 percent (2016-2017), 0.096 percent (2015-2016), and 0.17 percent (2014-2015).

The 1918 H1N1 epidemic, commonly referred to as the “Spanish Flu,” is estimated to have infected 29.4 million Americans and claimed 675,000 lives as a result; a case-fatality rate of 2.3 percent. The Spanish Flu claimed greater numbers of young people than typically expected from other influenzas.

Beginning in January 2009, another H1N1 virus—known as the “swine flu”—spread around the globe and was first detected in the US in April of that year. The CDC identified an estimated 60.8 million cases and 12,469 deaths; a 0.021 percent case-fatality rate.

For more information and updates regarding COVID mandates, data, and the vaccine, click here.

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Eduardo Escobar showing signs of heating up; Brandon Nimmo dodges an injury

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Eduardo Escobar showing signs of heating up; Brandon Nimmo dodges an injury

Eduardo Escobar watched a Steven Matz changeup sail into the center of the zone on Tuesday at Citi Field. His bat remained frozen just above his shoulder. Escobar was behind 0-1 in the count, but he didn’t waste time attacking the next pitch. Another changeup from Matz, but this time it moved outside. Escobar got to it before the catcher could, and he watched the ball glide past the infield dirt, then beyond the outfielders, before it finally landed in the opposing bullpen.

Escobar lifted his right arm in the air as the ball touched down. It was only Escobar’s second home run of the season, but his arm was raised because the monkey was off his back. Escobar went 3-for-7 with a home run, an RBI and a walk across both games of Tuesday’s doubleheader with the St. Louis Cardinals.

“I felt good just because I’ve been working a lot with the hitting coaches,” Escobar said of what was going through his mind after that homer. “To have that moment after the tough times that I’ve been having this season, it really felt good. I’m just trying to go out there every day to improve and try to help the team win and that’s what I’m going to try to do every single day.”

Maybe all Escobar needed to heat up at the plate was to face Matz. The third baseman is 5-for-10 with two home runs in his career against the former Mets southpaw. But Escobar is hoping the adjustments he’s made at the plate will make a long term impact against the rest of the league.

Escobar has been working with hitting coaches Eric Chavez and Jeremy Barnes in an effort to return to the approach that worked for him earlier in the season. In his first 20 games of 2022, Escobar hit .268 with a .839 OPS and an impressive 14 walks. The free passes Escobar received in those first 20 games were a product of his patience, which was a different, more successful approach than what we’ve seen from him lately. Entering Tuesday, Escobar posted an abysmal .118/.196/.177 slashline with only five walks in 13 games in May.

He has been chasing pitches out of the zone instead of doing what he knew would work, getting out in front of pitches like he did for Tuesday’s home run. Even Matz, who hardly shows any emotion on the mound, scrunched up his nose and stared into the opposing bullpen, looking completely baffled as to how his outside changeup traveled 391 feet to center for a home run.

Escobar is at his best when he’s baffling opposing pitchers, something he did very well for the Diamondbacks and Brewers last season, when cranked 28 home runs in 146 games. In 2019, Escobar had 35 homers with 10 triples, the best in the major leagues.

His teammates and skipper are anxiously waiting for that Escobar to show up, the one fans saw a glimpse of in April during his hot start. Those that know Escobar best on this team are not concerned about his May slump. His work, attention to detail and passion for his craft have all led Buck Showalter to believe it’s just a matter of time before he goes on a tear.

“He’s been working so hard,” the Mets manager said of Escobar. “That’s why it’s tough. Everybody’s got a little spot, just about everybody’s got an area where they can pitch to. And you go through periods where they’re getting the ball there in the right sequences. I think he is first or second in incorrect calls against, in baseball. Balls and strikes. That’s a lot. Do you feel like he’s been arguing a lot of balls and strikes? It’s been tough on him. He’s wore it. It makes you want to support him even more.”

SIGH OF RELIEF

Brandon Nimmo returned to the Mets lineup on Wednesday against the Cardinals, leading off and playing center as usual, and with the quad contusion he sustained in Game 2 of Tuesday’s doubleheader mostly behind him. The center fielder tested out his quad hours before first pitch on Wednesday and said he was surprised with how good he felt, given how much pain he was in just the night before.

“If you’re not sure how that feels, go home tonight, take a hammer and hit it off your quad,” Showalter said of Nimmo’s contusion.

Nimmo fouled a ball off his quad during a seventh-inning at-bat on Tuesday, and immediately he hopped out from the box in obvious pain. Nimmo returned to the at-bat, though, and sprinted down the line on a routine grounder to shortstop. Once he reached the base, Nimmo limped off the bag and hunched over with his hands on his knees. He did not return to the field, but evidently the rest and ice he applied after the game helped him bounce back to the starting lineup on Wednesday.

MARTE COMING BACK

Starling Marte (bereavement list) is expected to rejoin the Mets on Thursday, but it’s unclear if he will be activated for their series finale against the Cardinals at Citi Field. It’s possible the Mets will wait until Friday, for their opener at Denver, to activate Marte and make a roster move.

Marte’s grandmother died, suddenly, earlier this week and he flew back to Dominican Republic to be with his family. His grandmother raised Marte after his mom died when he was just 10 years old. Wednesday was also the two-year anniversary of the death of his wife, who died from an unexpected heart attack in 2020.

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Joanna Vail, ‘greatest public service lobbyist in Minnesota,’ dies at 93

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Joanna Vail portrait

Many colleagues considered Joanna Vail the “greatest public service lobbyist in Minnesota.”

Joanna Vail (Courtesy of the family)

“At the Metropolitan Council, she was called ‘our legislative mortician’ because she would always kill off any bad legislation,” Todd Lefko, a longtime friend and president of the International Business Development Company, told the Pioneer Press. “She was a fixture, sitting in the front row of the legislative hearing rooms, knitting and staring at any legislator who might vote against her bills.”

Vail was also a former nurse, Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party leader and aide to the late Gov. Wendell Anderson.

But to Capitol insiders, she will likely be best remembered for her furious knitting during legislative committee meetings. A political foe once mailed her a pencil drawing of a guillotine over the message: “Are you knitting, Madame Defarge?” — a reference to the fictional character in Charles Dickens’ 1859 novel “A Tale of Two Cities” who sat outside her Paris wine shop during the French Revolution endlessly knitting a scarf listing people to be killed.

Vail died May 12 at Presbyterian Homes in Arden Hills, where she had been receiving memory care since 2020. A former longtime resident of White Bear Lake and later Mahtomedi, she was 93.

“Joanna loved cats, baseball, reading and spending time at her family camp on Agate Island in Ontario, Canada,” her son, David, wrote in a profile.

“Joanna was a combination of the Massachusetts culture and the Minnesota nice,” Lefko said. “This was reflected in her humor, which could be biting, but in the Minnesota tradition, always told the truth.”

Vail was born Nov. 16, 1928, in Waltham, Mass. She graduated from Waltham High School in 1945, and then earned a nursing degree from McLean Hospital School of Nursing in 1950. She worked as a registered nurse in Massachusetts and Maryland in the early 1950s.

After attending the University of Maryland, she served as head nurse at Springfield State Hospital in Sykesville, Md., from 1952 to 1953 and was an instructor and director of nursing education at Rosewood State Hospital in Owings Mills, Md., from 1953 to 1956.

She married Dr. David Vail in 1956. They moved to Minnesota, where he became state medical director and she dove into politics.

After he died in 1971, she returned to work to support her four children. She became a staff assistant to Gov. Anderson, a post she held until 1973, when she left for a position as special assistant to the chair of the Metropolitan Council until her retirement in 1994.

A member of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union, Vail enrolled at Metropolitan State University in 1988 and became one of the first three area union members to graduate from the school’s labor studies program.

“I think people take for granted many of the things labor has fought and worked for. I don’t think they should,” she said later. “We can’t count on the benevolence of management without a strong countervailing force looking out for the interests of the workers.”

The Vails moved to White Bear Lake in 1959. She quickly became active in local politics but was soundly defeated in a 1961 primary election for a city council seat there.

She was elected Ramsey County DFL “chairman” in 1968 and Fourth Congressional District DFL “chairman” in 1970. Friends said she was the first woman elected as the top congressional district officer in either party in Minnesota.

In 1968, she was a strong supporter of Eugene McCarthy for president. DFLers elected her as a delegate to that year’s turbulent Democratic National Convention in Chicago, where Hubert Humphrey defeated McCarthy for the party’s nomination. While walking back to her hotel one night Vail was tear-gassed by police who were battling violent protesters.

“I remember thinking, what the hell is this housewife doing in a riot in Chicago?” she later told Star Tribune reporters.

Her family said Vail, with the help of Anderson and others, “became sober in 1971 and remained clean and sober for over 50 years, until her death.”

She is survived by sons David Rand Vail (Anne), Garrett Murphy Vail and Michael Walsh Vail; daughters Sara Vail Palmquist (Dan), Rachel Vail Doran (Michael) and Martha Vail Spittal (Thomas), 14 grandchildren and 11 great grandchildren.

Vail’s memorial service will be held 2 p.m. Aug. 27 at the White Bear Unitarian Universalist Church, 328 Maple St., Mahtomedi. Memorials are preferred to Vail Place, a nonprofit organization that provides recovery service for adults with serious mental illnesses.

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Salvation Army seeks 1,000 volunteers to deliver doughnuts to local heroes

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Salvation Army seeks 1,000 volunteers to deliver doughnuts to local heroes

Do you know a first responder, healthcare worker, teacher, veteran or helpful neighbor who could use a doughnut?

On June 3, which is National Donut Day, the Salvation Army Northern Division is looking for registered volunteers to fan out across the east metro and deliver a dozen doughnuts to their “local hero” of choice. The 12,000 doughnuts, which are being donated by Cub Foods, can be picked up from one of six metro Salvation Army locations.

Last year, the event drew just under 700 volunteers. This year, the goal is 1,000. Prospective doughnut deliverers must register in advance at SalvationArmyNorth.org/free-donuts.

As for recipients…

“It’s at the choosing of the volunteer,” said Dan Furry, a spokesman for the Salvation Army Northern Division. “We started doing this last year, and it worked very well. We’ll probably do it every year for Donut Day.”

Why doughnuts? Back in 1938, the Salvation Army’s “donut lassies” served up morale-boosting doughnuts, coffee and more to soldiers stationed in France, near the front lines of World War I. June 3 was set aside as a national recognition of their sweet service to the American troops, who returned home with a hankering for the fried confections.

Their appetites earned the returning soldiers the title “doughboys” and popularized the doughnut in post-war America.

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