Mercy Hospital Jefferson recently received its first shipment of two oral COVID-19 medications.

Mercy Hospital Jefferson recently received its first shipment of two oral COVID-19 medications.

The Jefferson County Health Department has reported six more COVID-19-related deaths and a record number of new cases.

The latest COVID-19 deaths include a woman in her 50s, a man in his 50s, two men in their 60s, a woman in her 80s and a man in his 80s.

Two of those deaths were connected to long-term care facilities, the Health Department reported.

The latest COVID-19 deaths brings the total number of county residents who have died from the virus to 398 since the pandemic began.

During the week of Jan. 2 to Jan. 8, the county had 2,806 new COVID-19 cases, up from the previous week when there were 1,701 new cases.

“For comparison, in CDC Week 1 of 2021, we reported a total of 1,176 cases in a week. That was prior to vaccines becoming widely available,” Health Department public information officer Brianne Zwiener said. “This drastic increase in cases is concerning and we strongly recommend that individuals who are eligible get vaccinated and boosted to protect themselves and others.”

Zwiener said the latest 2,806 new COVID-19 cases was the highest number of cases reported in a single week since the first ones were reported in March 2020.

Of the most recent new cases, 62.76 percent was among unvaccinated people, 30.76 percent was among those with two vaccinations, and 6.48 percent was among people who had two vaccinations and a booster dose.

As of today (Jan. 12), the county had seen a total of 43,199 coronavirus cases since the first ones were reported, the report said.

COVID-19 medication

Mercy Hospital Jefferson in Crystal City received its first shipment of oral antiviral medication for COVID-19 this week.

WD Kennon, Mercy Jefferson director of pharmacy, said the hospital received Paxlovid, which is manufactured by Pfizer, and Molnupiravir, manufactured by Merck.

Kennon said the hospital received the doses from the state and received 20 courses of Paxlovid and 500 courses of Molnupiravir.

He said the medication requires a prescription, and in Jefferson County, the prescriptions will be filled from the Mercy pharmacy inside the hospital and the Mercy pharmacy inside the Arnold Dierbergs, 860 Arnold Commons Drive. He said other Mercy hospitals in the St. Louis area also received courses of both medications.

“We're very excited for that next step of having additional resources available to us to help prevent hospitalization due to COVID-19 disease or infection,” Kennon said.

He said both medications will be used for outpatients who are high risk and have mild to moderate symptoms.

“It’s for people who are considered at high risk of progressing to severe COVID-19, which would usually require hospitalization,” he said. “Our ultimate goal is to help people stay home.”

Both medications were approved by the FDA with an emergency use authorization.

Kennon said both medications have to be taken for five days. He said Molnupiravir is two pills twice a day for anyone over 12, and Paxlovid is three pills twice a day for anyone over 18.

He said the drugs only will be prescribed to people who test positive for COVID-19, and those people are encouraged to reach out to their primary care doctor about a possible prescription.

“This medication does need to be started within five days of onset of symptoms,” he said.

Kennon said he got “chills” when he opened the first shipment box and then received a prescription requesting the medication within six minutes.

He said he was excited to have the medication as an option. However, he said vaccination against COVID-19 still is the best protection against the virus.

“The number one step to getting through and past this is vaccination, and/or booster doses as your own immunity wears off over time,” he said.

Kennon said he expects to receive a shipment of the medication every two weeks.

Red status

For the 25th consecutive week, the county is in the red status on the Health Department’s COVID-19 warning system.

The number of cases per 100,000 people for Jan. 2 to Jan. 8 was 1,247, which is significantly up from the previous week when there were 756 new cases per 100,000 people, the Health Department reported.

The county’s percentage of positive COVID-19 tests for Jan. 2 to Jan. 8 was 38.87 percent, which was up from the previous week when the positivity rate was 38.51 percent.

The Health Department uses the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) metrics to set the color level, and the community status is calculated using both the seven-day total of new cases per 100,000 residents and the percentage of positive tests. If the metrics have different color levels, the Health Department uses the higher color in the four-color system to determine the county color status.

Both metrics are in red, so the county remains in the red status.

Vaccines

Health officials urge residents to get vaccinated against COVID-19 and to take other steps to limit the spread of the virus, including frequent hand-washing, wearing masks and social distancing.

As of today, 48.19 percent of Jefferson County residents was fully vaccinated against COVID-19, which was up slightly from the previous week when 47.77 percent was vaccinated, according to the Health Department.

The Health Department recommends anyone who is eligible for the booster to get one. The CDC recently recommended a Pfizer booster shot for children 12 and older.

As of today, 15.81 percent of people had received their booster vaccine, according to the Health Department.

People may sign up for a vaccine appointment through the Health Department by going to the state vaccine Navigator website at covidvaccine.mo.gov/navigator. Or they may call 877-435-8411. Or, to find another local vaccine site, visit vaccinefinder.org.