St. Louis County is revisiting guidelines as it reports 243 new cases of COVID-19 yesterday, the second highest number since the coronavirus pandemic began. Thus far, 8,000 county residents have tested positive for COVID-19.
At his morning press briefing today (Wednesday, July 15), County Executive Dr. Sam Page cited three reasons for the increase in positive numbers: more testing (1,800 per day in the county), and private labs are reporting results in clumps, because they are so busy and overwhelmed with tests coming in.
“That’s why we are making our decisions on a rolling day seven-day average rather than a single day result,” Page said.
The third reason, Page said, is that there are many more people out and about.
“There is more movement of COVID-19 in the community, especially in the 10 to 19 age group and the 20 to 29 age group. We are watching these numbers closely, we are obviously concerned about where the virus might be in our community, and how it might continue to spread,” Page said. “We know that gatherings of young people and adults around youth sports are the primary source of spread in the community – youth and adult sports.
“We are revisiting our guidelines now and we’re going to make a decision on whether or not youth and adult sports guidelines need to be adjusted.” The County exec said they’ll know more about that on Friday.
Page said he was in conversation with the Pandemic Task Force yesterday about whether or not additional adjustments need to be made to current business guidelines.
“We would like to not make any more adjustments, we would like to not have to roll back any of our restrictions, but the health and welfare of everyone in St. Louis County will always be our top priority,” Page said. “The competition between health and welfare and the economy does not have to be mutually exclusive, but it depends on everyone following our good business guidelines and following them closely.”
Page credits being one of the jurisdictions to enact stay at home orders during this pandemic and slow and cautious reopening as putting St. Louis County in a better position than many parts of the country.
He said the Dept. of Public Health is looking at all of the County’s guidelines to consider whether there needs to be any changes.
“All of our guidelines now require a 50% capacity for restaurants, retails, pharmacies and others and we are not currently considering at all, expanding that capacity limit,” Page said. “We’d like to continue our steady reopening, but of course, nothing will ever be normal until we have a vaccine. And we must follow these guidelines very closely.”
Page also said his office has been getting complaints about residents who are ignoring mask orders.
“Face coverings are required so we can continue with our current status of reopening without any rollbacks,” Page said. He thanked “the vast majority of people in St. Louis County [who] understand and appreciate the importance of face coverings and are complying with this.”
“We also know that not everyone in the community is applying our mask guidelines – not everyone is listening. We do get some complaints from employees, and patrons and customers of businesses, all with concerns that mask guidelines are not being followed – by employees and some customers. Our priority is helping businesses stay in business,” Page said, adding that often, all they need is a reminder – a letter of what the rules are so they can get the word out to their employees, patrons and customers.
“We know that if customers go into a business and they feel that it is unsafe, they will not be back, and they will tell their friends. We understand this is the best way to get compliance, along with reminding the businesses of the right thing to do.”
Page summarized the dos and don’ts for face masks in the County.
“You are not allowed to go into a business or mass transportation without a face covering. If you work in an office or job where you are in close contact with other employees or members of the public, then you need to have a face covering,” Page said. “ You need to have a face covering when you are seated at an indoor restaurant or bar when you are not eating; you need to have a face covering when you are up walking around, or when you enter or exit the building.
“You need to have a mask on when you go into someone’s house to provide a service, do maintenance work or do any sort of repair work, and you should have a mask on when you’re outside and you’re not able to socially distance from others.”
Masks are not required if you are at home, alone in your vehicle or with passengers who live with you; are working in a private office with no one in close proximity — but you should always have a mask with you to use where you cannot distance yourself from others.
Full details about face coverings and other COVID-19 data can be found at stlcorona.com.
At the end of the briefing, Page touched on the reopening of schools. While it is a national discussion, Page said decisions about school openings will be made locally, based on advice from health experts and schools.
“Specific guidance will come from the schools on the 20th,” Page said. “In the interim, we continue to meet with pediatricians, with superintendents and our public health department to make sure that our guidelines are appropriate.”