CITY HALL – About 10 days into the city’s stay-at-home order, St. Louisans are “getting a little bit used to it,” Mayor Lyda Krewson remarked – but we all have to take the coronavirus pandemic seriously.
“This is really important, for you to stay home,” the mayor emphasized Friday afternoon in a livestream on her Facebook page. Krewson explained that science and medicine are behind the curve as the COVID-19 coronavirus has erupted so swiftly around the world.
The best way to curb the rise of new cases is to prevent the virus from spreading. And that means staying physically separated – social distancing. That’s something only people themselves can control.
“It’s all up to us,” Krewson stressed.
She recommended that people limit even necessary trips outside the home, for example, to buy food and medicine.
“Don’t go more than once a week – or less,” she urged, adding that only one person per household should go if at all possible.
When asked how social distancing could be enforced, she acknowledged that officials simply needed the public to cooperate.
“We’ve got to get you to take charge of that,” Krewson said.
The mayor was asked about the exemptions to the stay-at-home order for lawn care and construction work.
She explained that tall grass can attract vermin and insects, which would become a public health issue. As for construction, she said, it’s mostly done outside, and workers are usually at least six feet apart as part of their normal work.
Krewson said hospitals were taking the lead in trying to ensure that they have enough beds and enough ventilators to care for those who need them. She pointed out that area hospitals had stopped all elective procedures and were getting non-coronavirus patients in and out as quickly as possible. Right now, she said, we have enough beds and ventilators.
“If we can slow the spread, flatten the curve, we may continue to have enough beds,” she said. She also said the city health department was working with the Corps of Engineers, looking at large venues in case they are needed.
Krewson discussed the wearing of masks but said, “We are not requiring anyone to wear surgical masks yet.” The Centers for Disease Control isn’t requiring their use by the public, she noted, although many people are wearing the soft fabric or paper masks.
The hard N95 masks worn by medical professionals have hard surfaces and are much more effective. Doctors and nurses depend on having these masks as they test and treat the rest of us.
“I will probably wear a surgical mask” when grocery shopping, Krewson added.
Not everyone is cooperating with the stay-at-home order.
The city’s order to close playgrounds appears to be riling some people. Caution tape and signs about the closure are being ripped away from playgrounds every day, Krewson said, so city workers have had to return each day to replace the tape and signs.
“It’s just not safe for your kids” to let them, or anyone, congregate at the playgrounds. The coronavirus can live on hard surfaces for more than a day, she explained.
Krewson has no plans now to close the city’s 109 parks, although St. Louis County recently closed its own parks. St. Louis has already closed its major parks to vehicular traffic, except for Forest Park, where some roads are still available.
Because the county parks are closed, some of those residents may turn to the city parks for recreation, boosting traffic there.
“I don’t want to close parks, but I do want you all to social distance,” Krewson reiterated. “We have to socially distance if we want the privilege of using the parks.”
If humans resist the impulse to form a pack, dog parks can stay open, she said.
Shortly after the coronavirus struck in St. Louis, there seemed to be a dip in crime. But “right now, violent crimes are running just about where they were on this date last year,” she said.
How long will the city’s stay-at-home order last?
“It’s very likely that it will be extended, based on science, based on data,” the mayor warned. In another week or two, she said, officials will know more and will make a decision, setting a new end date as necessary.
Meanwhile, the VP Fair – centered on the July 4 holiday – is being postponed. The organization hopes to hold the celebration sometime in the fall.
Krewson praised area residents who are helping to slow the spread of the virus, and those who are working on the front lines and risking their own health.
She said she found encouragement in seeing that “90 percent of people who are supposed to be staying home are staying home.” She thanked workers who are performing critical tasks: trash haulers, health care professionals, grocery clerks and more even as the coronavirus threatens us all.
Krewson urged her listeners to keep up their vigilence.
“More people are taking it more seriously, and we just have to continue that.”