ST. LOUIS ( -- The warnings from St. Louis doctors and nurses became more dire on Friday – and the numbers more serious – as COVID-19 continues to spread in the region.

“While the hospitals are almost nearly full, the virus continues to spread like a wildfire,” Dr. Alex Garza said Friday. “That means if we continue on this current path, in another couple of weeks, hundreds more people will be sick and they will be hospitalized and it’ll be difficult to find room for them.”

Garza said that while some hospitals in the region have reached capacity, others still have space, but that could soon change. Garza leads the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force. 

The number of people hospitalized for the virus reached a record high on Friday for a total of 881, an increase of 32 from Thursday. Task force data shows staffed hospital beds reached a capacity of 84% while intensive care units have 91% of their beds filled.

According to model data, a week from today, on November 26, hospitals could reach a crossroads – so many COVID-19 patients that other procedures will have to wait.

Garza applauded Franklin County officials for passing a mask mandate and said he supported the state’s emergency declaration, advising everyone to wear a mask, but said more should be done. For the second week in a row, Garza implored Governor Parson to issue a statewide mask mandate.

Also noteworthy from Friday's news conference, Garza said his team is working with state officials about adding additional resources to the area as hospital load worsens. He said they are discussing opening a field hospital and additional, unused areas of hospitals. Garza also said physicians are having to start using what is called "crisis standards of care."

"In short, that means we have to make choices about who can be helped with the limited resources available and make choices about who can't be helped and that is a dilemma no healthcare worker ever wants to face," Garza said.

Other healthcare workers also talked about having to comfort patients dying of COVID-19 who are not able to have family members with them during their last moments.

"It's hard to see your team down when all you want is for things to get better," Katie Eason said. She's the ICU manager at SSM Health DePaul Hospital. "So my ask is that everybody wears their mask and follow CDC guidelines as best as they possibly can."

Copyright 2020 KMOV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved

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