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Document: White House Coronavirus Task Force Report Dec. 13, 2020

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Missouri has dipped below the national average for its rate of new COVID-19 cases for the first time in weeks and probably months, according to the White House Coronavirus Task Force.

The task force's Dec. 13 report, which the News Tribune accessed from the Center for Public Integrity, reflects case and death data through Dec. 13 and testing data through Dec. 12.

Missouri's new case rate of 404 per 100,000 people was lower than the nation's average of 451 per 100,000.

Task force reports dating back to at least early September have shown the state to have had a higher new case rate than the country's average, a trend that continued throughout November and into the beginning of December.

Missouri's new case rate in the previous report, dated Dec. 6, was 388 per 100,000 people, compared to the average of 385 per 100,000 for the country.

Missouri ranked 33rd in the country for its new case rate and sixth for its positivity rate — compared to 32nd and ninth the previous week.

Most of the state and Mid-Missouri continued to have red zone-high levels of new cases per 100,000 people and lab test positivity rates.

Ninety-three percent of all counties in the state had moderate or high levels of community transmission, with 88 percent having red-zone levels. That was some increase compared to the previous week, when 91 percent of all counties had moderate or high levels of community transmission and 83 percent were in the red zone.

Jefferson City, Columbia, and Boone, Cole, Callaway, Camden, Maries, Miller, Morgan and Moniteau counties remained in the red zone. Osage County was in orange and Gasconade County in yellow.

The average number of people admitted each day to Missouri hospitals with COVID-19, or suspected of having it, did not change much between the Dec. 6 and Dec. 13 reports — with about 300 people confirmed to have COVID-19 admitted each day and another 230-235 admitted each day who were suspected to have COVID-19.

In a new metric, the task force noted 47 percent of hospitals reported a staffing shortage and 24 percent had supply shortages.

The task force led its Dec. 13 recommendations with specific medical advice for how to treat COVID-19 patients based on what stage of the disease they have and how at-risk they are — including whether and when to use drugs such as remdesivir or dexamethasone and in what dosages.

The task force continued to recommend proactive testing of people who could be asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic to prevent as many people as possible from unknowingly spreading the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

The task force also urged reducing capacity at or closing public and private indoor spaces, including bars and restaurants, as well as continued focus on encouraging people to wear masks, physically distance themselves from others, practice good hand hygiene and avoid indoor gatherings with anyone who doesn't live with them.

In terms of vaccinations, the task force advised immunization of people older than 65 "will have the greatest impact on hospitalizations and deaths," as 20 percent or more of people older than 70 who get infected are admitted to hospitals and almost 10 percent die.

Other recommendations include anyone older than 65 or with underlying health conditions that put them at increased risk should not go inside anywhere where people are unmasked — and that means having groceries and medications delivered.

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