(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) As Buchanan County experiences a COVID-19 surge, a chemistry professor at Missouri Western State University continues to track the numbers and provide a clear picture as to where the county stands in the pandemic.
Dr. Gary Clapp has spent the last year and a half voluntarily tracking and plotting the ups and downs of COVID-19 cases for St. Joseph Mayor Bill McMurray and the city council with the intention of making the data easier to interpret and understand.
Now, as Buchanan County sees a sudden surge in cases, hospitalizations and positivity rate, Dr. Clapp said our upward trend in cases mirrors the county's pandemic high last winter.
“The numbers we’re seeing right now are very close to the highs we were seeing in November and December of last year,” said Dr. Clapp, “All of a sudden we’re back right where we were. We have to manage this again.”
Tuesday, the chemistry professor with a coronavirus tracking side hustle, pointed to a plotted graph which resembled a smiley face. The graph showed the cases per day since January 1, 2021. The high number of cases from December and July result in a 'U' shape as cases in Buchanan County were relatively low through the spring.
Dr. Clapp said the county is averaging 60 cases per day which is not far from last winter's average of 80-85 daily cases.
The county saw its pandemic high of cases on December 8th, 2020 with 142 cases in a single day. Monday, the St. Joseph Health Department reported 130 cases over a three day period.
However, the brightside is hospitalizations aren't what they were.
Tuesday, Mosaic Life Care reported 57 hospitalizations throughout its system which is just over half the COVID-19 patients Mosaic had admitted in November.
“I don’t think we’re headed in that direction yet. We’re at the same numbers approximately that we were when we hit 90’s last year, but we learned a little better how to treat people who come down with it and catching it a little earlier,” said Dr. Clapp.
Both Dr. Clapp and Health Director of the St. Joseph Health Department blame the Delta variant and low vaccination rate for the alarming surge.
“Last winter it would go up a little bit at a time for a few days or weeks and then it would go up a little more, where this kinda just spiked up,” said Debra Bradley, St. Joseph Health Director.
This past spring as cases and hospitalizations were practically dormant, Dr. Clapp was about to give up his side-gig as he said it wasn't worth plotting zero cases day in and day out. However, the county's cases took a turn for the worst this summer.
Now, as cases inch toward previous pandemic highs, those who know the ins and outs of the data said there is a way out of this suge and it's simple: get vaccinated.
“The rise in hospitalizations, the rise in deaths can be prevented if people would get vaccinated,” said Bradley.
As of Monday, 22.3% of Buchanan County residents are partially vaccinated.