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City issues ‘stay in place’ order

CITY HALL – Starting Monday night, you won’t be able to get a haircut, get your nails done, work out at a fitness center or do a wide variety of other kinds of business that’s not considered essential.

Your business can keep going if it’s a grocery store, a pick-up food business, a convenience store or another operation that officials believe the public can’t do without.

As for everybody who doesn’t have to be out and about, City Health Director Fredrick Echols wants them to to stay home to keep from spreading the COVID-19 coronavirus.

On Saturday, Echols signed an order saying that everyone in the city must stay home unless they’re engaged in essential activities, from 6 p.m. March 23 until 6 p.m. April 22.

Echols said in the order that he could rescind the order or extend it in writing. 

“It was an extremely difficult decision that we did not take lightly,” Mayor Lyda Krewson said in a news conference Saturday afternoon. “I worried about peoples’ health, and I worried about peoples’ finances.”

That decision was made after consultation with Echols and the three regional hospital systems.

“Their guidance, their advice on the global pandemic is clear,” Krewson said. The situation will get worse without tough restrictions, she said. “This is an unprecedented response.”

There is now evidence of spread of the virus through the community.

“That means that we’ve reached the point where new infections are not related to travel, but they are also being transmitted person to person,” Krewson said.

Making things worse was the fact that the number of cases of COVID-19 increased from eight on Monday to 73 on Friday. 

St. Louis County Executive Dr. Sam Page also announced on Saturday that the county was adopting new restrictions requiring people to stay home when possible. Other counties in the region also are considering similar actions, Krewson said.  

In the news conference, Krewson emphasized that people could leave their homes to go to the grocery store, to pick up take out food, to work in their garden, to work at home and to do work that’s not exempt. 

“Don’t panic, don’t be alarmed, but do take this seriously,” Krewson said. 

Krewson also said that the area had a good local food supply.

“Our goal is to keep the economy running as strong as we can,” Krewson said.

This “is not a recommendation. It’s an order,” the mayor said. “There’s a group of people that will understand this order and follow this order.”

It’s essential that people follow the orders, Echols said. Asked about the capacity of area hospitals to handle large numbers of cases, he said his department was having discussions with the health care system almost daily.

“Young people are not exempt. They can become infected like the older individuals,” Echols said.

The order says that all businesses may maintain the value of their infrastructure and inventory, provide security, process payroll or employee benefits and help employees working elsewhere. But they must stop all other activities.

Exceptions to those rules include most health care facilities, veterinarians, grocery stories, convenience stores and other retail stores selling food or household products, restaurants and bars selling pickup, takeout or delivery food items and newspapers, television, radio and other media. 

Among the other exceptions are gas stations and vehicle supply and vehicle repair facilities, banks, and hardware stores. 

Full details are in Echols’  Stay Home-Essential Activities Only Order Health Commissioner’s Order No. 5.

Krewson agreed that the closing of barbershops and salons could bring some inconvenience.

“I’m worried about that myself,” she said. Asked whether it might cause some people to have long hair, she said, “Or bad haircuts if we do it ourselves.”    

But, she said, “It’s the intimate exposure for that salon worker with 10 customers a day or six customers a day, and if they were to become infected, it’s the interchange. You’re not able to social distance while you’re getting your haircut.”

Jim Merkel Born and raised in the St. Louis area, Jim Merkel covered communities throughout the area from 1991 to 2013 for the old Suburban Journals of Greater St. Louis. He is the author of five books about the Gateway City published by Reedy Press. The latest is Growing Up St. Louis: Looking Back Through the Decades. He and his wife, Lorraine, live in the Bevo Mill neighborhood of south St. Louis with Miss Jenny the Cat. For more about Jim, visit

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