SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (AP) — Health officials in parts of southwest Missouri are reporting an increase in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.

CoxHealth's flagship hospital in Springfield currently has between 35 and 40 COVID-19 patients, more than double the number from two weeks ago.

CEO Steve Edwards said nearly 20% of patients tested at CoxHealth facilities in southwest Missouri are testing positive for the virus, up from 5% two weeks ago.

In Joplin, three area hospitals reported a total of 39 COVID-19 patients Wednesday. The number was around 15 at the beginning of May.

Health officials blame the increase on relatively low vaccination rates, and more people attending social gatherings without masks or social distancing.

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