Although the first COVID-19 vaccine was administered in the United States two years ago, local hospitals and health officials are continuing to see active cases throughout the region.

Both Joplin regional hospitals have been treating COVID-19 patients in the double digits this week.

Freeman Health System has seen an increase in COVID-19 patients over the past few weeks. On Thursday, Freeman officials reported 18 patients being treated for COVID-19, with two of those patients being on a ventilator.

According to Angela Tucker, director of system quality improvement and infection prevention at Freeman, “cases are trending higher right now and coincide with the holidays (since Thanksgiving) and increases in other respiratory illnesses (like flu and respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV).”

COVID-19 admissions to Freeman have doubled since Dec. 15; however, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention COVID-19 community level is holding at “medium,” Tucker said.

The CDC uses data on hospitalizations and cases to determine how COVID-19 is affecting each community. Each county is ranked “low,” “medium” or “high” based on the number of hospital beds occupied by COVID-19 patients, the number of COVID-19 patients who have been admitted to the hospital in the past week and the amount of new county cases over the last week.

A “medium” rating shows that there are some impacts on the local health care system and that there are more people with severe illness, according to the CDC website. Under a “medium” level, the CDC recommends those who are at high risk of getting very sick wear an N95 mask when indoors in public.

For more information on community levels, go to www.cdc.gov.

Mercy Hospital Joplin officials on Thursday reported 11 patients admitted, with two of those patients on a ventilator.

“We are currently seeing a steady trend in numbers,” said Nate Kuester, senior media relations and communications specialist. “Patients are still mostly experiencing respiratory symptoms that include shortness of breath, pneumonia (and) fever, but also some are presenting with GI (gastrointestinal) symptoms.”

Larry Bergner, Newton County Health Department administrator, said there were 78 active COVID-19 cases reported last month, but numbers are decreasing.

“We currently have 27 active cases in Newton County that we know of,” he said. “Many are doing home tests, and I’m sure we don’t receive all of the positives, although we do have many people who provide us with positive results. We had eight new cases today (Thursday).”

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News reporter

Kimberly Barker is a news reporter for The Globe who covers Northeast Oklahoma, Southeast Kansas, as well as Carl Junction, Carthage and Webb City. She can be reached by email at kbarker@joplinglobe.com or by calling 417-627-7364.