I was very worried as I cruised the streets of East St. Louis during the July 4th holiday weekend and for good reason, given the coronavirus pandemic that plagues us.
The family and random gatherings that I witnessed gave me little comfort: BBQs with no social distancing or masks, filled with people sharing beverages, blunts, hugs, kisses and handshakes. Business as usual in the hood.
In my mind I thought, “This thing is going to blow up,” much like the omnipresent fireworks constantly exploding around me. Sadly, I was right.
According to reported COVID-19 data from the East Side Health District (which covers the East St. Louis area) between July 6-14, the number of cases spiked, from 731 to 844 at press time.
ESL City Hall has been hit particularly hard, with nine city employees testing positive for COVID-19, including Mayor Robert Eastern III, who confirmed his status. No further names can be divulged, unless the infected employee chooses to disclose their status to the media. All city employees have been asked to be tested as soon as possible. Anyone who visited City Hall the week following the July 4th holiday also should be tested.
In the meantime, ESL City Hall has been closed indefinitely and has been sanitized. Chief Judge Andrew Gleeson has suspended the St. Clair County satellite court, which is also housed in ESL City Hall, for a period of two weeks.
Also, Denese’s Place, a popular ESL bar, has closed its doors out of an abundance of caution when the owner, Denese Drummond, revealed that she had contracted the coronavirus. She posted on Facebook that “Denese’s Place has been exposed to COVID-19. For the safety of our community, we will be closed until further notice…to deep clean and regroup.”
Drummond believes she became infected while attending small social gatherings and hugging people, the antithesis of what should be done during a pandemic. For a small, close-knit community such as East Boogie, having such a major spike is a wake-up call.
While I understand the legalities and privacy issues relative to the disclosure of the names of infected ESL city employees, it would be commendable if they would follow the lead of Mayor Eastern and disclose their health status. Citizens of ESL who have interacted with these unknown employees or elected officials may have become infected outside of the realm of City Hall by simply being in their company and need to know whether their health has been compromised.
It’s understandable that folks wanted to party over the July 4th holiday weekend without considering that COVID-19 doesn’t take a holiday. I get it. I’ve been in The Rona prison too. But this setback should reinforce the need to socially distance, wear the damn masks and not congregate under any circumstances: holiday, birthday, anniversary, church service.
Our motto should be “Six feet apart or six feet under.” Do it for yourself and your loved ones, people. I don’t want to play this same broken record following the Labor Day weekend festivities. Be safe.