COLUMBIA-- Boone Hospital Center announced it would limit most visitors starting Monday morning.

The Boone Hospital Board of Trustees said the hospital currently houses 58 COVID-19 patients, most of which are in the hospital's ICU and COVID units.

63 Boone Hospital workers are out after testing positive, showing symptoms or coming into contact with a positive individual.

Visitors are only permitted in situations involving end of life, child birth, patients under the age of 18 and patients with cognitive impairment, according to the Boone Hospital Center website.

Boone County's hospitalizations and ICU beds in use continue to rise, prompting the change.

158 patients are hospitalized in Boone County, with 44 in ICU beds and 21 on ventilators as of Monday afternoon.

The Boone County hospital status was yellow on Monday, meaning some non-emergency procedures and transfers would be delayed for at least two days due to staffing or capacity issues.

Starting Monday, BJC Healthcare facilities in St. Louis suspended some elective surgeries and other procedures that can be safely postponed until 2021.

Boone Hospital, an affiliate of BJC Healthcare, will not be suspending elective surgeries at this time.

The St. Louis metro area reported 949 hospitalizations with 175 patients in ICU beds and 93 on ventilators, according to the Department of Health and Senior Services.

Dave Dillon from the Missouri Hospital Association said staffing is presenting the greatest issue to hospitals around the state.

"The hospital workforce lives in the community," Dillon said. "We have hospitals that are reporting as many as 10% of their workforce are calling in ill or in quarantine."

Workers staying home due to COVID-19 means there are fewer healthcare workers available to care for patients as hospitalizations increase.

"Beds are only as good as the individuals that can provide care at bedside," Dillon said. "With the rates we're seeing of positive COVID diagnosis throughout the state, we anticipate that this is going to get worse before it gets better."

He also said he sees many of the same issues St. Louis is dealing with in Mid-Missouri.

"From a hospital perspective, we're struggling with the same set of challenges," Dillon said.

Dillon said hospitals have looked into the possibility of backfilling positions, but that has proved challenging since the pandemic has a widespread impact.

"The healthcare resource, from a workforce perspective is constrained virtually everywhere," Dillon said.

Hospitals in St. Louis have started to collaborate on their response to COVID-19, something that Dillon said was unprecedented.

Hospitals have limited their visitor policies to prevent further spread of COVID-19 inside their buildings, including MU Health Care.

"Right now, if you're not ill, the hospital is not the place for you to be," Dillon said.

Dillon said hospitals might opt to suspend elective surgeries because those procedures use many of the same resources used in COVID-19 care. 

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