COVID-19 Cases, Hospitalizations Increasing in Joplin

There were 38 patients being treated for the virus Wednesday, according to state numbers posted on the city of Joplin’s website at www.joplinmo.org. But the numbers reported by the two hospitals totaled 39.

Two EMTs outside a parked ambulance vehicle.
An ambulance brings a patient to the emergency room entrance at Hackensack University Medical Center, that treated the first N.J. COVID-19 patient.
TNS
(TNS) - An increase in hospitalizations for COVID-19, with more of those cases involving younger people than six months ago, is being seen at Joplin hospitals.

There were 38 patients being treated for the virus Wednesday, according to state numbers posted on the city of Joplin's website at www.joplinmo.org. But the numbers reported by the two hospitals totaled 39.

A spokesman at Mercy Hospital Joplin told the Globe there were 19 cases hospitalized there. Freeman Hospital reported 15 in its COVID-19 unit and five at Freeman Neosho Hospital .

Freeman's numbers were up seven since Tuesday, when there were 13. There were 11 hospitalized last Thursday.

On Wednesday, active cases of the virus in Joplin were reported at 30, up 10 from a day earlier. The city saw larger jumps twice earlier in May when there were one-day increases of 15 on May 24 and 14 on May 3 .

The current hospitalized cases involve 10 Joplin residents; the others are from the area.

Jessica Liberty , manager of infection prevention and control at Freeman, said Wednesday the timing of the increase in patient numbers coincides with graduation events and parties. Cases as the result of Memorial Day activities would not surface for seven to 10 days after holiday gatherings, she said.

Increases in patients and hospital admissions also are being experienced in Springfield where Steve Edwards , president of Cox Health , said on social media Wednesday that hospital admissions have risen from 16 two weeks ago to 37. Some are younger patients than previously admitted with serious illness, he reported.

Local hospitals are experiencing a similar trend. Liberty said the patient age range at Freeman recently has been people ranging from 30 to 70 years old, rather than the higher ages previously seen.

Positive cases on Wednesday were reported at 30 in Joplin , 26 in Jasper County and 35 in Newton County .

At the height of the pandemic, case numbers in Joplin spiked at 86 on Nov. 11 and then ranged from 30 up to 74 on Jan. 7 , when a gradual decline started. The cases then declined into a range from 0 to 14 per day until a recent rise.

Tony Moehr , administrator of the Jasper County Health Department , said that the number of county cases has risen over the past two to three weeks.

"There for a while we were only getting four or five positive tests a day, and here the last few weeks we've been up to 10 or so. Over the last few days, our average cases have 12 per day. So yes, we are seeing a rise in cases," he said.

He believes three factors are contributing to that trend.

"People have been traveling a lot more, and there are people who have been vaccinated who aren't wearing masks as much, and those who have not been vaccinated and aren't wearing masks," he said. Masks are still recommended, he said.

Edwards said that reduced mask-wearing and lower vaccination numbers will result in more cases.

The case numbers are not as high as they were in March, when not as many people were vaccinated.

"There were 60 or 70 at one time, so it is not as bad as it had been, but we are still seeing cases out there," Moehr said. "There has not been a dramatic increase but we have had an increase," he said.

Edwards said in his social media posts that the India variant of the virus has been found in a Springfield case. He said he expects to see more variants emerge in the area.

Moehr said the state is conducting variant testing on a random basis.

"We have gotten notification that a couple of individuals have tested positive for the U.K. variant," he said.

State sampling across the state shows that variant is widespread "so when we got the notification of it here we were not surprised. We would be surprised if we did not have the variant" found in other parts of the state, Moehr said.

The youngest COVID-19 patient having to be hospitalized was a person in their 20s, he said.

"The good thing about that is you're not seeing the masses in the higher age group that are susceptible to not making it through" the illness, Moehr said. "Hopefully, younger people have a better chance of not being as sick."

He said it is a good idea for people to wear their masks and to get vaccinations.

State numbers show that about 40% of Joplin residents and about 30% of people in Jasper County outside Joplin have been immunized.

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(c)2021 The Joplin Globe (Joplin, Mo.)

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