With the rapid rise in both COVID-19 cases and hospital admissions, County Executive Sam Page announced seven actions to reduce the spread of the virus on Monday, July 27. These include restricting gatherings to no more than 50 people, mandating that bars close at 10 p.m., and rolling back business occupancy to 25 percent — all which go into effect on Friday, July 31 at 5 p.m.
“We hope that our actions today will reduce the spread enough that schools can offer an in-classroom option this fall for parents who choose,” Page said during the Monday press briefing.
The county’s daily report of test results indicated that 523 more people tested positive, he said. According to the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force, the area hospitals have now reached 40 new admissions a day on average.
“That’s the milestone and a marker we decided several weeks ago that we'd decide to do something differently,” Page said.
The task force was consulted on these decisions and fully supports the changes, according Dr. Alex Garza, incident commander for the task force.
“All of the COVID metrics are moving at a concerning and unsustainable rate, including increasing cases, percent positives of testing, and hospital admissions,” Garza said. “We must act now to avoid further spread, hospitalizations and deaths which typically follow rapid increases in cases. We must take these steps if we want to flatten the curve, get our kids back playing sports and in school full-time, as well as keep everyone safe and healthy.”
Page also noted that young people continue to see an increase in new cases, with the steepest increase in new cases are among people ages 10 to 19.
“And, in recent weeks, the number of new diagnoses is highest among people aged 20 to 29 years,” Page said. “Contact tracing, social media, and common sense tell us that these young people frequent late-night bars and entertainment venues where people are crammed together, aren’t wearing masks, and aren’t social distancing. So we’ll be making some changes there starting this week.”
Among the other actions, the county is also recommending that all people who are awaiting their COVID test results quarantine until they receive the results. Action will also be taken this week to ensure that all health providers are getting their results reported in a timely manner, he said. Due to delays, the Department of Public Health issued a Rapid Notification Order.
“But not all testing providers are complying, especially urgent care providers,” Page said.
The county will initiate a new process for closing businesses as another enforcement tool, he said.
“If businesses are not playing by the rules, they shouldn’t be open,” Page said. “So the Department of Public Health will be finding new ways to make sure all businesses are following the rules — for the safety of their workers, workers’ families, and their customers.”
Finally, the director of human services has been asked to help provide safe places for teachers who need to quarantine.
“Teachers, virtual or in-classroom, are always important, but let’s face it: starting in a few weeks, teachers will be the new front-line workers,” Page said. “We need to recognize that. And we need to treat them accordingly. Just as so many of you have gone out of your way to thank health care professionals, grocery workers, and public transit drivers for putting themselves at risk to provide necessary services in our community, we should convey equal gratitude to our teachers.”
Even with these efforts, Page is strongly encouraging parents to opt for a virtual option if they can.
“I know that for parents, this creates childcare challenges,” Page said. “For some families, it will keep children with special needs away from familiar and necessary support systems. And, given the long-standing disparities in our region, inequitable access to virtual learning will only increase those inequities.
So this is not something I would ask of this community if not for the reality that the health and welfare of our kids, our families, and our neighbors are at stake.”