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ST. LOUIS (AP) — Drops in coronavirus transmission rates in the St. Louis area are beginning to stall, raising concerns residents are dropping their guard too soon and caseloads could soon rise again.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported the number of daily new coronavirus infections fell precipitously after a peak in January. Missouri's seven-day average dropped below 500 a day last month, for the first time since last summer.

At the same time, the St. Louis region's daily average hospital admissions tumbled to 35, the lowest in eight months.

Meanwhile, the region is now on track to reach widespread immunity by late June — with about 75 percent of the adult population vaccinated — an expectation weeks better than mid-August estimates made just last month.

Yet state and regional caseloads and hospitalizations have now stalled at current levels for about four weeks.

"Everyone is in this prevention-methods burnout phase," said Tim Wiemken, a Saint Louis University professor and infectious disease expert. "The weather is getting nicer, and people are just over it."

There also are concerns more infectious versions of the virus may be adding to caseloads, adding urgency to the vaccination effort.

"That's the race here, and it's neck and neck for the foreseeable future," Wiemken said.

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