JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (KMIZ)
Cole County health leaders say their hospitals are strained by the load of COVID-19 patients as coronavirus infections continue at a record pace.
Representatives of St. Mary's Hospital and Capital Region Medical Center participated in an online meeting with local government leaders about the status of the pandemic in Cole County on Thursday.
A doctor representing St. Mary's Hospital said the hospital intensive care unit was over capacity for three days this week. The unit remained at capacity Thursday, Dr. Lenora Adams said.
"On Monday we learned what surges feel like, and it was uncomfortable," Adams said. "We learned within a very short period of time, even just an hour or two, we can exceed our hospital capacity when we have a sudden influx of patients who can require a very high level of care."
Dr. Randall Haight with Capital Region Medical Center said his hospital has space for patients but its staff is being stretched to its limits. Adams said St. Mary's is also experiencing staffing problems.
Cole County has reported 1,680 of its 4,637 cases this month alone, including 204 on Friday. The county also reported seven new deaths Wednesday for a total of 31.
Cole County and Jefferson City remain in the White House's "red zone" on the most recent report, indicating a high rate of coronavirus spread.
It isn't clear how many active cases are in the county -- the health department has stopped reporting that information. The Missouri Department of Corrections has reported scores of active infections in Jefferson City and Algoa correctional centers. The website where those numbers are posted was down Thursday morning.
Cole County Health Department Director Kristi Campbell said Thursday that the department will change how it reports new cases. Instead of releasing case totals based on the day the department was notified of the positive result, the department will now report based on the date of the test.
Cole County Commissioner Sam Bushman said he was hopeful that this would bring some clarity to the reporting of data.
City leaders and health officials both took time during the meeting Thursday to plead with residents of Jefferson City to follow guidelines and wear their masks.
Jefferson City Mayor Carrie Tergin said she has seen more compliance in the past few weeks adding, "we're seeing that people are realizing what they need to do and we just need everybody to stay strong and do that."
Bushman also added that he's seen more people with masks on in his stores. The commissioner however, said while cases increasing he has not explored the potential of increasing restrictions.
When asked about a possible stay at home order Bushman said, "if we try to do another, stay at home order, it'll kill Cole County. So it'll kill the state if we do that. So that's not anything I intend to do."
Watch a replay of the news conference in the player below.
Check back for updates to this developing story or watch ABC 17 News at 5 and 6.