December was metro area's worst month for COVID deaths

By The Associated Press

KANSAS CITY (AP) — December was the deadliest month of the coronavirus pandemic in the Kansas City area, where an average of 11 people died each day from COVID-19. The Kansas City metropolitan area recorded 342 COVID-19 deaths through Dec. 30.

In Missouri, the virus has claimed 5,519 lives, including 28 new deaths reported Thursday by the state Department of Health and Senior Services. The state also cited 3,714 new confirmed cases, bringing the total to 392,570 since the pandemic began.

Hospitalization numbers have improved over the past couple of weeks, but experts worry another surge could follow holiday gatherings. The health department said in-patient bed capacity statewide was at 29%, and intensive care unit bed capacity was at 25%.

The situation was even more concerning in the St. Louis area. Dr. Alex Garza, head of the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force, said hospitals were at 84% capacity and ICUs were at 90% capacity.

“As we enter this new year our ICUs are still operating at near-full capacity and there is little room left if we were to have a surge in patients,” Garza said at a news conference Wednesday.

Garza said the recent decline in recorded COVID-19 cases in the region may have simply reflected that fewer people were taking the time to get tested around the holidays.