ST. LOUIS – The half-dozen people clustering around a bench at the Arch look like a family following health guidelines as they and their dogs get some fresh air. Or are they social distancing scofflaws?
The young men going into a small diner may have opened its door so they can clean and disinfect the business. With a group of friends. And anyone driving by who may be moved to stop in to help.
Then again, maybe the diner is the site of the operation of an essential service during this coronavirus pandemic.
How can we tell?
Most of the time, we can’t.
During this pandemic, streets seem eerily empty as many of us are staying inside and most businesses and restaurants are closed.
Runners and dog walkers and parents pushing babies in strollers give each other wide berths.
Some restaurants are still serving food, but curbside pickup has replaced eat-in meals.
Essential businesses that are open ask customers to stand behind tape on the floor to maintain distance at counters and cash registers.
The city of St. Louis is asking the public, first, to follow the health safety recommendations themselves; and second, to report potential violations by calling the Citizens Service Bureau at 314-622-4800 or filing a complaint online. City officials will check out the issue.
Mayor Lyda Krewson has praised the “90 percent” of residents who are following the guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control, including staying home except for essential errands, staying at least six feet apart, washing hands, and – a new recommendation – wearing a cloth face cover when out in public.
The CDC notes, however, that a mask is not a substitute for social distancing.