CoronavirusFeaturedNewsThe NorthSider

New outreach under way to African-Americans, homeless

CITY HALL – Mayor Lyda Krewson updated residents on Friday about the march of the COVID-19 coronavirus in the region and officials’ moves to help people get through the crisis.

As of 2 p.m. Friday, the city had about 600 cases, Krewson said in a livestreamed news conference on Facebook. She warned that more cases would probably have been reported by this evening. The region’s current 2,400 cases comprise two-thirds of the total number in Missouri.

Also as of 2 p.m. 14 city residents – 13 of them African-American – have died of the virus. Krewson acknowledged the decades-long inequities in society that have left blacks more vulnerable than other populations to infection.

Wilford Pinkney Jr., Director of Children, Youth, and Families for the St. Louis mayor’s office.
Krewson invited Wilford Pinkney Jr., her office’s Director of Children, Youth, and Families, to speak, specifically on outreach to black residents.

Pickney described a new regional initiative called PartnershipSTL. It was launched by the St. Louis County Department of Health, he said, but has many area member groups. The partnership will be sending out more than 80 people this weekend, visiting grocery stores and pharmacies to get out the word about social distancing and other good health practices.

Next week the target venues will be laundromats, check-cashing places and churches.

The team is trying to get information and reminders out to everyone, he said, “but African-Americans are disproportionately affected by the virus.”

So the canvassers will be focusing on talking with black residents, making sure they are surviving “emotionally and economically.”

“Mental well being is just as important as physical health,” Pinkney said. He encouraged residents who were struggling to dial 211 and press 1 to speak with someone about their feelings.

“Take care of yourself and each other, and we’ll all stay safe and healthy,” Pinkney urged listeners.

Krewson then spoke on measures to help homeless people. She said that the former Little Sisters of the Poor site housed 15 people early int he week and that 26 more went there on Wednesday afternoon. Original double-occupancy rooms are being used as singles “until we absolutely have to,” she noted.

Three church sites are also being lined up, she said, to help provide about 100 additional beds in the next week to week and a half

The issue isn’t space but who is available and willing to operate the shelters.

Meanwhile, the city’s inmate population is down to 730 people in the two jail facilities, a “significantly reduced population,” she said.

When asked about airbnbs, she said that they “are still able to operate, similar to a hotel. But they do, regardless of who rents it, have to abide by the 10-person rule.”

She said she had heard of people – not just families normally living under one roof – renting them and having parties.

“That’s a no-no,” she warned.

The mayor asked residents to report establishments that appear to be flouting the social distancing orders. Potential scofflaws can be reported to the citizens service bureau by calling 314-622-4800, tweeting to .@stlcsb; or online through the city website  City officials will visit with the business and cite them if necessary.

Every city employee is supposed to wear a face mask, and right now the city has enough. The workers include firefighers, police officers, health care workers, trash collectors, EMS workers, grass mowers – and the mayor herself.

Krewson showed off her own mask.

“The St. Louis Fashion Fund made this mask for me!” she explained. “It’s a look, and when I go out, I wear it.”

Staff is home to The NorthSider and The SouthSider weekly community newspapers. The SouthSider publishes 25,000 copies every Tuesday. The NorthSider publishes 25,000 copies every Thursday. They are distributed at over 600 locations across St. Louis.

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