Missouri and the Joplin area have reached record COVID-19 hospitalization levels several times over the past few weeks.

The number of COVID-19 patients in Joplin's hospitals has risen nearly all week, according to the city's dashboard. The city reported that 76 people were hospitalized on Tuesday, up from 69 a day earlier. Hospitalizations in the region topped 80 on Thursday before dropping back to a still-elevated 78 patients across Joplin's three hospitals on Friday. Of those patients, 25 were Joplin residents as of Friday, according to the dashboard.

Joplin Mayor Ryan Stanley said earlier this week at a City Hall briefing that city officials are closely monitoring regional hospitalization data because of a concern about the institutions having the bed space and staff to care for larger numbers of patients.

Across the state, the latest record of 1,443 patients hospitalized was set Wednesday. As of late Friday, data hadn't been released for Thursday or Friday.

Among the regions setting new records was the Kansas City area. The surge in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations is so severe there that some hospitals were forced to refuse ambulances because of a lack of space, according to officials with one of the region's largest health care providers.

Eight hospitals, in both Missouri and Kansas, reported such high volumes of patients Wednesday night that they temporarily stopped accepting ambulances, said Dr. Marc Larson, operations director of St. Luke's Health System's COVID-19 Response Team. A St. Luke's spokeswoman added that two of the hospitals were part of the St. Luke's system. She did not identify the others.

“We’re bursting at the seams in the metropolitan area and really across the state and the region,” Larson told the Kansas City Star in a phone interview. “... I worry that if we don’t start taking this seriously as a metropolitan area, we’re going to be the next New York. We’re going to be the next hot spot because though we have a lot of hospitals, we have a lot of capacity in the area, we are filling up fast.”

Missouri is among several states seeing a surge in new virus cases. On Friday, the state reported 2,017 new cases and 17 additional deaths. Missouri has reported 152,571 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 2,459 deaths since the onset of the pandemic.

The outbreak is prompting the White House Coronavirus Task Force to recommend that universities in the state test all students before Thanksgiving break. Some university leaders said it's a costly plan and mass testing isn’t effective.

The task force urges schools to “work with university students to keep cases low, with the goal of low transmission in preparation for Thanksgiving.”

A spokesman for Missouri Southern State University in Joplin on Friday said the school hadn't received any guidance from the state regarding the testing of students prior to Thanksgiving, but he added that the topic would be discussed during the next meeting of the university's COVID-19 task force.