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Medical experts point to gathering, underreporting as cause for rising COVID cases

Published: May. 13, 2022 at 7:34 PM CDT
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ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV) - A flurry of COVID-19 testing is keeping Total Access Care locations busy in the metro.

“People come in thinking it’s their normal sinus infection or allergy symptoms and then we test them for COVID and it’s positive,” said Dr. Dawn Spell, Family Nurse Practitioner and Medical Director for Total Access Urgent Care.

News 4 learned staff across all metro Total Access Urgent Cares are administering roughly 650 tests per day, which is up from 500 tests per day back in March.

“Our most recent data has shown 19.9 percent positive over the last week,” said Spell.

SSM Health’s Chief Community Health Officer, Dr. Alex Garza, says we can expect to see COVID-19 cases continue to increase in the region as communities return to activities like traveling and graduation all while little to no COVID-19 mitigation measures are being enforced.

“If you’re elderly, things like that, then you need to be more cognizant of what you’re doing,” said Garza. “So whether that’s gathering in large groups, or being around other people, those are the things that should really drive behavior, such as wearing a mask or not going into indoor crowded environments, things like that.’

However, he also says the true number of cases across the St. Louis metro is going under-reported.

“People either foregoing testing because they think it’s something else or frankly they don’t want to get tested,” he said. “And then the other piece of that is the proliferation of home testing as well. And, so, those are never making it to those official counts.”

“I think there’s been a little bit of hesitation for testing in recent weeks mostly because allergy season is so strong,” said Spell. “We also had a recent uptick in flu cases, which is pretty unusual for the month of May.”

Dr. Garza says the good news here is rising COVID-19 cases are not expected to strain hospitals because the community has built significant immunity or has been vaccinated and boosted.

“You can still become infected, especially with the omicron variant and things that are highly transmissible. But the key is that it doesn’t cause significant illness,” he said.

Yet, for those traveling or gathering, he says it is still better to get a test if you start to feel any sort of symptoms.