State adds 20 ‘probable’ COVID deaths to Warren County count

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The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) revamped its reporting of COVID-19 data last week, including more complete data about deaths potentially related to COVID-19 that may previously have been underreported.

DHSS’s online COVID dashboard was updated on Thursday to add statewide data on thousands of previously unreported deaths and infections, some dating back to the spring of 2020, according to a report by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

In Warren County, DHSS data now identifies 20 deaths that have a “probable” connection to COVID-19, going back to October 2020. Added to confirmed COVID deaths, that would bring the death toll in Warren County to 71.

The newly tallied probable cases are based on antigen testing — the quicker, but less accurate COVID tests — and also people who were not tested, but died with COVID-like symptoms after being in close contact with a COVID case, according a DHSS press release.

DHSS said probable cases that didn’t have an antigen test were added to its counting after the Centers for Disease Control updated its definition for what counts as a probable case.

Breakthrough infections

DHSS’s updated COVID data includes a new look at statewide breakthrough cases and reinfections — people who tested positive for COVID after being vaccinated or already contracting the virus once before.

Health officials say the data provides a strong case for the effectiveness of vaccines in preventing infection and severe illness. Since vaccinations started becoming available in late December 2020, 87% of COVID infection have been in people who weren’t fully vaccinated, according to DHSS, and 91% of COVID deaths have been people who weren’t fully vaccinated.

Looking at the outcomes specifically for vaccinated people, DHSS says only 2% of vaccinated people have developed breakthrough COVID infections, and that 0.02% of vaccinated people have died from a COVID infection.

The overall COVID death rate since vaccines became available is 1.6%.

“This data reaffirms what we have been saying for nearly a year. COVID vaccines work very well to prevent hospitalizations and death,” said DHSS Director Donald Kauerauf in a press release. “The vaccines continue to be an effective tool to protect Missourians from serious illness.”

DHSS data also shows that reinfection among people who previously had COVID is very rare, although health officials still strongly recommend vaccination to provide “more consistent protection than disease-induced immunity,” Kauerauf said.

DHSS’s data also shows that people with certain chronic health conditions are most at risk for contracting COVID even after vaccination or previous infection, highlighting the importance of booster shots for eligible people, Kauerauf said.

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