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MISSION, Kan. — The number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients jumped by nearly 27% over the Fourth of July weekend in a hard-hit area of Missouri where immunization rates are low, leading to a temporary ventilator shortfall and a public call for help from respiratory therapists.

The delta variant, first identified in India, is spreading rapidly, straining hospitals in Springfield and raising fresh fears that the situation could soon grow worse as holiday gatherings seed fresh cases. Missouri leads the nation with the most new cases per capita in the past 14 days.

As of Monday, CoxHealth and the city’s other hospital, Mercy Springfield, were treating 213 COVID-19 patients, up from 168 on Friday. As recently as May 24, the two hospitals had just 31 patients.

“After what we’ve seen in the last month everyone is just holding their breath, especially after a holiday weekend like this, knowing that there were large gatherings,” said Erik Frederick, the chief administrative officer of Mercy Springfield.

Many communities that held off on Fourth of July festivities in 2020 held them this year.