Missouri experienced its deadliest day of the coronavirus pandemic Saturday.
The state Department of Health and Senior Services reported 24 deaths so far from COVID-19, but the actual total late Saturday was 35.
The state report does not include at least two deaths in St. Louis and as many as six in St. Louis County. It also does not include a death reported Saturday afternoon in Cole County that came after the state update.
Asked about the difference during Gov. Mike Parson’s daily briefing, state Health Director Randall Williams said the difference was due to an oversight when the department required reporting of COVID-19 cases.
"The reason is when we made COVID-19 reportable, we did not make deaths reportable within 24 hours," Williams said. "We have now corrected that, so that providers who have a death will be required to notify us within 24 hours."
The data will align with other widely cited sources by Sunday, he said.
Four women died in St. Louis, three in their 70s and one in her 50s, according to a Friday announcement from the St. Louis Department of Health. The death toll in St. Louis is now five, according to the city count and three by the state’s tally.
There was no additional information available Saturday afternoon about the St. Louis County or Cole County deaths.
Also on Saturday, Parson asked Missourians to be patient if long lines develop outside groceries and other essential retailers, who must limit the number of people who are inside based on their size and rated capacity.
"I think it is much better to having them them spaced out outdoors than it ever is to have them inside a building when they are bunched up," Parson said.
Parson issued his statewide stay-at-home order Friday but took no questions at that time.
A Columbia lawmaker, Democratic state Rep. Kip Kendrick, said he saw big problems with Parson’s order.
"If you look closely at the order, there's just some definite holes in it as well," Kendrick said.
It allows some non-essential businesses to stay open and seek waivers for social-distancing regulations. When asked about the section allowing non-essential businesses to remain open, Parson said they were under the directions of his social distancing order from earlier, which is no more than 10 people in a single area and no less than six feet of separation.
"Having read just basically through what has been released on the website so far, the order does not seem to go as far as the municipalities have gone in the state of Missouri," Kendrick said.
In its daily record of testing results, the state health department recorded an additional 178 positive tests for COVID-19, bringing the total since the first case was discovered on March 7 to 2,291.
There have also been six deaths in Greene County, three in St. Charles County and one each in Boone, Camden, Cass, Henry, Jackson, and Lafayette counties. The county for one death has not been determined.
In addition to a rising death toll, the coronavirus pandemic continues to spread to all areas of the state.
Of the 117 local health jurisdictions that report to the state health department, the contagion is present in 77.
The largest outbreaks of COVID-19 continue to be in the state's urban areas. St. Louis County as of Saturday had 864 cases, with another 287 in the city of St. Louis. On the western side of the state, Kansas City reported 172 infections and Jackson County outside Kansas City had 135 more.
Boone County, with 75 cases on the state report and 69 cases in the county health department count, has the most infections outside the largest metropolitan areas, followed by Greene County with 62 and Johnson County with 29.
To deal with the growing numbers, medical workers to resume practicing would become part of the Missouri Disaster Medical Assistance Team. The state is asking health care students, retired health care workers and those whose professional registration recently expired to apply online for the team.
"We are calling on all available medical professionals to support the effort to fight the virus by joining a critical reserve unit now focusing on providing care in high need areas across the state," Parson said in a news release. "Their efforts can help save the lives of their fellow Missourians."
Individuals are needed with backgrounds in medicine, nursing, allied health, dentistry, biomedicine, laboratory science, logistics and communications.
Medical personnel from the team have already deployed to augment staffing at Golden Valley Hospital in Clinton and Western Missouri Medical Center in Warrensburg.
Also on Saturday, major health care systems in the St. Louis region announced the creation of the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force. Participants include the BJC HealthCare, Mercy, SSMHealth and St. Luke's Hospital.
The task force aims to ensure collaboration and coordination of supplies, hospital beds and other critical assets. It also plans daily public briefings about regional efforts to stop the spread of the virus.
Nationally, there were 305,820 confirmed infections in the United States at 5 p.m. Saturday, with 8,291 deaths attributed to COVID-19. The numbers reported in the U.S. grew by by more than 32,000 in less than 24 hours, with the number of deaths up more than 1,214 in the same period.
Worldwide, the tracking data on cases confirmed by testing approached 1.2 million Friday afternoon, increasing by about 80,0000 in 24 hours. Deaths worldwide that are blamed on the coronavirus now total 64,316.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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