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Missouri hospitals are beginning to see a glimmer of hope as new cases of COVID-19 decline, but the possibility of a post-holiday surge is keeping them on edge.

State health officials reported the rolling seven-day average of cases was 1,816, down from a peak of 4,723 on Nov. 20.

Dr. Alex Garza, who leads the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force, described the situation as "encouraging" in a media briefing Monday, although his enthusiasm was tempered.

"We have a lot of patients in the hospitals right now, so any bump-up that we have from a holiday surge could put us right back into those areas where we don't want to be, where we are stretching our staff way too thin," he said. "The fact is that COVID is not going to go away over the holidays. It won't leave when 2020 leaves either."

On Tuesday alone, the state added 2,479 more coronavirus cases and 117 more deaths, bringing Missouri's totals since the pandemic began to 383,616 confirmed cases and 5,316 deaths. State health officials said 97 of the deaths were added as the result of a review of death certificates, with 32 of them dating back to November.

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