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story.lead_photo.caption FILE: Missouri Gov. Mike Parson speaks during a COVID-19 briefing Thursday, Feb. 4, 2021. Photo by Missouri Governor's Office

Data support state leaders' balanced approach to overcoming the COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. Mike Parson said during his weekly update Thursday.

"We continue to see very encouraging signs in the numbers," Parson said. "Since the very beginning, we have taken a balanced approach, and our data show we are doing the right thing."

Missouri's positivity rate of 7.6 percent has fallen below 10 percent for the first time since October, he said. Missouri's rate was at 24.7 percent just before the winter holidays, he continued.

As of Wednesday the state had just over 1,400 hospitalized COVID-19 patients. The state's high was more than 2,800 in November.

The governor said Missouri continues to make progress in delivering and administering vaccines. The state recently administered more than 50,000 doses during a single day — a daily record, he said.

About 81 percent of vaccines received by providers have been reported as administered, he said. (That excludes those doses administered through the federal partnership with CVS and Walgreens pharmacies.)

Despite the progress, it has been suggested that the state is not equitably providing vaccines for the St. Louis area.

"This is simply not true," Parson said.

The St. Louis area receives about 37 percent of vaccine doses Missouri receives from the federal government — which is equal to its percentage of the sate population, he said.

St. Louis has multiple "high-throughput" hospitals capable of administering at least 5,000 doses weekly — BJC HealthCare (Barnes-Jewish Hospital), SSM Health, Mercy Hospital, St. Luke's Hospital, and the St. Louis County Health Department.

The providers were chosen because patients 65 and older and those at high-risk of deadly complications from COVID-19 are most likely to have established relationships with them, Parson said.

The St. Louis region receives 15,600 doses weekly through its high-throughput hospitals, Parson continued.

And there are 50,000 doses in the St. Louis area that have not been reported as administered, he said. It should be shared with other agencies.

It has been found that the St. Louis County Health Department has not received its share of the region's allocation of doses, he said. The department will begin receiving 3,000 doses beginning next week and will continue receiving those doses.

"However, we will maintain the 37 percent of weekly allocations to the St. Louis region. It will not change that percentage," Parson said.

Alex Garza, head of the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force, has been critical of the Parson administration's vaccine distribution plan, saying it has left the region with half the vaccines it should receive.

"I am tired of leaders, like Dr. Garza, misleading the people of St. Louis," Parson said. "Dr. Garza has made statements that have been absolutely false. He has led with fear and panic, rather than with a sense of balance."

The people of St. Louis deserve better, Parson said.

Questions raised include whether rural communities are receiving more vaccines than urban, he said.

Through mass vaccination events, administration by Walmart and Walgreens pharmacies, and administration of vaccines by the Missouri National Guard, urban areas are actually receiving more vaccines for minorities and at-risk populations, Parson said.

The governor reminded Missourians that the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines each require a second dose. The second dose of the Pfizer vaccine is required 21 days after receiving the first dose. The second dose of the Moderna vaccine is required after 28 days.

"The second dose is critical to ensuring individual and community protection," Parson said. "Unless notified of a location change, individuals should plan to return for the second dose at the same site they received their first dose."

Through a federal program, Walmart and Health Mart pharmacies are to begin administering COVID-19 vaccines today (FRIDAY).

Those stores are to administer the vaccines according to state guidelines. As of now, Missouri is providing vaccines for people ages 65 and older, people with underlying health conditions that make them more at-risk of complications from COVID-19, residents and staff in nursing facilities, residents and staff at veterans homes, health care workers, first responders, and public works employees.

In Jefferson City, Walmart at 724 Stadium West Blvd. is to begin administering the vaccines. Customers may be required to bring documentation saying they are in the eligibility group for the vaccine. People wishing to receive vaccines are encouraged to contact the provider to make arrangements.

Missouri has confirmed 469,223 cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic began, as of Thursday, an increase of 1,034 from the previous day. The state also reported 7,431 deaths, an increase of 287.

Department of Health and Senior Services spokeswoman Lisa Cox said the jump in deaths came after a weekly review of death certificates, the Associated Press reported. Most of the 287 deaths had not already been reported to the state by another entity. One occurred in May, one in July, one in August, one in October, seven in November, 102 in December, 162 in January and 12 in February.

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