The head of the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force says the region is facing a third wave of COVID-19 unless residents get vaccinated and return to wearing masks in public spaces.

Dr. Clay Dunagan, BJC HealthCare's chief clinical officer, said the next wave of the disease could exceed the death and serious illness experienced last winter.

Dunagan said Tuesday that seven people died of COVID-19 in the last 24 hours in the St. Louis region, and 91 were admitted to intensive care units.

Also Tuesday, St. Louis County and the city of St. Louis issued a joint statement urging everyone to wear masks and saying mask mandates are “a topic of conversation.”

Drazen Zigic