Extending stay-at-home order is 'right thing to do,' Garza asserts

Extending stay-at-home order is 'right thing to do,' Garza asserts

ST. LOUIS – Dr. Alex Garza, head of the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force, praised local leaders’ decision to extend indefinitely their stay-at-home and social distancing orders. He spoke at his daily Facebook briefing about the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

Both St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson and St. Louis County Executive Sam Page announced their decision Thursday, saying they would revisit in mid-May a potential ending date.

These are not easy decisions, Garza said – “not easy for people or for our businesses.”

He noted that the orders hit home for him personally.

“As a doctor, as a resident, as a dad, I completely get it,” he said. “I’m missing out on my son’s baseball season.” But, he emphasized, extending our stay-at-home orders is “undeniably the right thing to do.”

“This decision will help stop the spread, and it will save lives.”

Garza invited Angela Fleming-Brown, CEO of the St. Louis Regional Health Commission, to speak. Fleming-Brown is, he said, working with a number of organizations on the new PrepareSTL initiative to help St. Louisans tackle the coronavirus and its overall effects.

Fleming-Brown spoke remotely, not in person, her voice backed by small children’s voices and crashes in the background.

She described PrepareSTL as a communications campaign focused on people of color “to raise awareness of COVID-19 as well as provide information on how to stop its spread, and connect individuals to resources they may need during this crisis.”

More than 80 workers are distributing flyers, posters and yard signs at places such as grocery stores and gas stations where people go to get basic needs, she explained. The public health campaign is also using social media and mailings.

The efforts started in north St. Louis and north St. Louis County, “mainly in our African-American populations that have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19,” she said.

The next wave of outreach will focus on immigrants and new Americans as well as faith groups and homeless people.

“Our goal for this program is that individuals will be prepared physically, emotionally and economically both now and in the future for this pandemic,” Fleming-Brown stated.

For more information about the campaign, go to preparestl.com

When Garza resumed speaking, he noted that the stay-at-home and social distancing efforts were helping. But, he said, “we’re still up 50 percent from where this started about 11 days ago.”

He presented the newest numbers: 687 hospitalized coronavirus patients; of those, 179 in ICUs, with 159 of them on ventilators.

The good news: 41 coronavirus patients were discharged Wednesday.

“That was really exciting,” Garza exclaimed. “The more we learn about how this virus behaves in people, the more effective we can be in helping patients with it.”

A chart he displayed showed that since April 5, hospitalizations are up nearly 50 percent, and he warned, “The surge is continuing.”

He also warned people against scams or simple misinformation.

“There are a lot of companies out there that are advertising that they can diagnose immunity from COVID-19, and that’s simply not true,” he stressed.

He clarified information he had given a day earlier about a total of 71,000 area people who will have been infected by the end of April.  That figure, he explained, includes a large number of people who have mild or no symptoms. As many as 30 percent of infected people feel no difference, and many others have symptoms so slight that they don’t change their activities or get tested. And then there are the sick people. So there are people out in public who have been infected and recovered and no one knows, Garza reiterated.

When asked about a timeline for re-opening businesses, he warned that solid data had to be available first, with both testing and tracing that gives reliable information about various populations and their immunities. We have no firm data yet on what types of businesses are low vs. high risk, where hot spots might develop, he added.

No baseball season yet for Garza’s son – or for Cardinals fans!

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