Missouri's health department reported a record number of new coronavirus cases on Thursday, with the daily count topping 1,500 for the first time.

O'FALLON — Missouri's health department reported a record number of new coronavirus cases on Thursday, with the daily count topping 1,500 for the first time.

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services's online dashboard showed 1,512 new cases of COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus. That topped the previous record of 1,449 set one day earlier.

The state also reported one additional death, bringing the total to 1,450 since the pandemic began. The total number of infections statewide is 79,574.

The number of new confirmed cases has risen sharply in the two months since the state reopened for business.

In the St. Louis region, a big one-day spike in hospitalizations created concerns among health care system leaders.

For several weeks, the number of new daily admissions for COVID-19 hovered around 40. Dr. Alex Garza of the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force on Wednesday reported 71 new admissions. Though a news release from the task force on Thursday corrected that number to 66, it remained among the biggest one-day totals since the pandemic began.

The task force is a collaboration between BJC HealthCare, SSM Health, Mercy and St. Luke's Hospital that track and analyzes data related to the coronavirus. The admission numbers reflect a two-day lag.

Thursday's numbers offered hope that the previous day's total was an aberration: New admissions announced Thursday were 37.

Garza called the Wednesday numbers "alarming." He said total hospitalizations and the number of patients in intensive care and on ventilators also rose.

The St. Louis region has been hit harder by the pandemic than anywhere else in Missouri. Combined, St. Louis city and St. Louis, St. Charles, Jefferson and Franklin counties make up 32,758 of Missouri's confirmed coronavirus cases, and 1,038 of the state's 1,450 confirmed deaths.

Garza said the best ways to keep the virus in check are to wear masks, avoid crowds and keep six feet away from others. He warned that health care overall will suffer if hospitalizations remain so high.

"Eventually it will catch up to the health care systems and we'll be unable to provide care for other types of patients and elective surgeries, things like that. We worked really hard to get those numbers down so we just can't let up now," Garza said.

St. Louis County Executive Sam Page and Garza both cited concerning spikes in the number of younger people testing positive for the virus, including those ages 15 to 19. Younger people testing positive generally show little or no symptoms but can pass on the illnesses to others, Garza said.

Adding to concerns about the virus: Flu season is fast approaching. Garza said flu cases typically begin to appear in October or November. "That means it's more important than any previous year to get vaccinated against the flu," he said.

The number of confirmed cases continues to rise in Boone County, the site of the University of Missouri-Columbia. The Columbia Missourian reported that the number in the county has topped 2,000, including 500 new cases over the past two weeks.

The newspaper reported that testing sites are being inundated and contact tracing has been slowed. Scott Clardy, the deputy county health director, said contact tracing efforts fell behind due to more than 200 positive test results last weekend.

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This story has been corrected based on revised figures provided by the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force to show there were 66 hospitalizations in one day, not the 71 it previously cited.