Missouri's state health director said Wednesday it will be a week before updated numbers on COVID-19 hospitalizations in the state are reported — which would mean the state will have gone two weeks without exact numbers.
"We know that hospitalizations are trending up. We don't have the exact data that we would have had last week, although we'll have it next week, but we know enough to know that they're trending up," said Dr. Randall Williams, Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services director.
Hospitalization data has not been reported on the state's COVID-19 online data dashboard since July 15, on account of "an abrupt change in data measures and the reporting platform issued by the White House on Monday, July 13, and effective Wednesday, July 15," according to a message on the site.
The Trump administration last week decided to have daily hospital data related to the pandemic be collected by Pittsburgh-based private technology firm TeleTracking Technologies, instead of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Associated Press reported.
The move was purportedly about getting more hospitals to report their data and to do it faster, though critics accused the administration of sidelining the CDC from the federal response to the pandemic.
The Associated Press' reporting noted hospitals directly reporting information to state health departments can get a written release from a state to continue doing that. The information includes "bed occupancy, staffing levels, the severity level of coronavirus patients, ventilators on hand, and supplies of masks, gowns and other personal protective equipment."
Due to the change, the Missouri Hospital Association and the state "will be unable to access critical hospitalization data during the transition. While we are working to collect interim data, situational awareness will be limited," the message on the state's COVID-19 data dashboard added.
On more exactly what that means, Williams said, "I don't have as exact numbers as I had last week."
The most recent numbers on the state's site showed on July 12 there were 875 people in a hospital in Missouri because of COVID-19; there was a 72-hour delay in reporting, which is why the number was posted July 15.
Williams later added that as far as is known, the number of hospitalizations is around 900.
Gov. Mike Parson also said that with as many people as are being tested for COVID-19, hospitalizations will probably go up, though, "The question is, how long is the stay, how serious is that hospital stay, is it ICUs, is it ventilators?"
"Yes, I think when the hospital numbers come back, they'll be up," Parson added, though he did not want to speculate as to how much.
Hospitalizations in Missouri had been trending up again since June 13.
Once a person is infected with COVID-19, it usually takes four or five days before symptoms set it, though that can take up to two weeks, according to the CDC. Once there is symptom onset, it usually takes a further five to eight days before people who will develop trouble breathing do so, at which point they are likely to be admitted to a hospital.
Most people infected with COVID-19 — 80 percent — only have mild symptoms, but among those who develop more serious illness, once symptoms set it, it usually takes eight to 12 days to progress to more serious respiratory distress, and 10-12 days from symptom onset to admission to an intensive care unit.
More than $85 million in aid announced
Also on Wednesday, state leaders announced the availability of more than $85 million in emergency federal funding, including for meat and poultry processors, mental health providers and nonprofits that provide critical community needs.
The money is from federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security funds.
Parson announced three sets of funds available through the Missouri Department of Economic Development:
$5 million for a Small Communities Operating Capital Relief Program, for the Missouri Development Finance Board to assist municipalities with less than 25,000 people living in them to access an interim working capital loan to address projected shortfalls due to the pandemic;
$22 million for nonprofits, available through a DED grant program. According to a news release from Parson's office, eligible organizations must be 501(c)(3) nonprofits, excluding hospitals, schools and animal charities.
The funds can be used "to cover hazard pay for direct health care workers, leasing additional space for social distancing, testing costs, program payroll and supply expenses related to increased demand for nonprofit services, direct assistance to individuals and families, and more."
The maximum grant award will be $250,000, at least initially. Eligible costs must be directly related to the pandemic, and must be incurred between March 1-Nov. 15, 2020.
$1 million for a grant program to help nonprofits and universities' co-working and incubator facilities adapt their spaces to social distancing and purchase personal protective equipment.
More information on all three programs is available at showmestrong.mo.gov.
Missouri Department of Agriculture Director Chris Chinn announced $20 million in CARES Act funding to assist meat and poultry processors that employ less than 200 people.
The facilities can be federally or state-inspected or custom-exempt, and can be existing or soon to be in operation.
Eligible costs incurred from March 1-Nov. 15, 2020, to be reimbursed by the aid include those related to capacity expansion, facility upgrades, equipment, increased inspections, hazard pay for employees and PPE.
The maximum reimbursement grant amount is $200,000 for a federal or state-inspected facility that slaughters livestock or poultry; $100,000 for a federal or state-inspected facility that does not slaughter but does provide further processing; and $20,000 for a custom-exempt facility.
More information is available at agriculture.mo.gov/abd/financial/meatpoultrygrant.php.
Missouri Department of Mental Health Director Mark Stringer also announced the availability of more than $37 million in CARES Act funding to assist with mental health needs:
$20 million for about 350 Medicaid providers contracted through the Division of Developmental Disabilities, including $17.6 million for providers of group homes and supported-living services, and a further $2.4 million that includes aid for employment providers;
$10 million for community behavioral health providers, including providers of mental health and substance abuse services;
$3.5 million for an "integrated care telehealth training center" available for behavioral health services offered by DMH providers and primary care services offered by federally-qualified health centers;
$3.2 million for telemedicine for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities;
$620,000 for public education efforts on suicide prevention.
More information from the Department of Mental Health is or will be available at dmh.mo.gov.