ST. LOUIS — Dr. Rachel Keech is the department chair of hospitalist medicine for the east region of Mercy Hospital, and she's helped to fight the surge of COVID-19 patients in Springfield, Mo., a hotspot for the delta variant. That's where she saw first hand how it's affecting people of all ages, especially those who are not vaccinated.
"It was really just overwhelming to see so many people so sick again. It really felt like it was back in the winter time," Keech said.
Keech spent five days in Springfield treating new COVID-19 patients.
"For the most part, the people we were caring for in the hospital were not vaccinated, and they were getting sick much faster than I recall them getting sick in the winter surge," she said.
Many of those people, Keech said, were in their 20s and 30s. With cases rising across the state, she's not surprised St. Louis and and St. Louis County are putting a mask mandate back in place.
"The mask mandate is going to help us reduce the delta variant in our community (and) reduce cases. In addition to vaccines, social distancing is the only other agent we have to try to prevent the spread of COVID in our community," Keech said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said vaccinated people don't have to wear a mask in public spaces, but Keech said the decision to mandate masks is important for the St. Louis area.
"The CDC is currently saying that if you are vaccinated, you are fully protected and that's true, but our community has an incredibly high amount of COVID infections right now. So it's an extra layer of safety that we can add to keep ourselves and our children safe," Keech said.
Keech says they're seeing a rise in COVID cases primarily in regions that are less vaccinated. She recommends getting vaccinated if you haven't already.