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Mayor speaks to children about COVID-19 in town hall

CITY HALL – “Are you all doing your homework?” asked the woman on Facebook LIVE. “Even though you don’t have to get to school, it’s important that you keep up with your reading and your math and your science, so give a little extra effort to your homework if you can.”

The woman who gave the message to the kindergartners through fifth-graders watching had a bit more authority than others. She was Mayor Lyda Krewson, in her first Kids Town Hall delivered Thursday morning through her Facebook page.

In 30 minutes, she answered questions that had been submitted by children. While her answers were simpler and more reassuring, they offered the same advice that grownups might get.

Even when businesses open up, “You want to continue to practice this social distance and stay six feet apart,” Krewson said. “You just want to be careful not to expose everyone else.”

And when someone doesn’t practice social distancing?

“We have to be very friendly about that,” Krewson said. “You have to say, ‘Hey, guys, back up, back up.’”

She sought to reassure someone who was having a birthday at the start of July. “I think by July 2, you may be able to have a small birthday party.”

The idea for the event wasn’t original with the mayor’s office, acknowledged Jacob Long, the mayor’s communications director. 

“We got the idea after seeing some other elected officials across the country hold similar virtual events tailored just for kids,” he said.

“When you’re young, this can be a scary time. There’s no school. There’s no playground. The tough choices we’re asking and requiring adults to make to promote social distancing, also affect young people and our youth,” Long said. “We wanted to provide an outlet where the mayor could speak directly to them and address their concerns, fears and questions about the virus and our future.”

The mayor’s office publicized the event heavily on social media but also worked with education partners including the St. Louis Public Schools. They also sent it out to parents, families and teachers.

Children submitted more than 120 questions. Questions were selected at random based on the scheduled 30-minute duration of the event.

Asked how long the school day at home should be, Krewson said, “That’s up to your parents,” but added, “It’s really important that you continue to do your lessons.”

What to do to fight the boredom? Krewson suggested using imagination or creativity. Cards or a little letter would be appreciated by those who receive them.

As for the disease itself, Krewson said, “COVID-19 is more serious in older people.” But it can affect younger people, too.

“The scientists didn’t know about COVID-19 until a few months ago,” Krewson said. “Scientists are working hard to come up with a medication or a vaccine for it.”

“I don’t want you to be scared, but I want you to be careful,” Krewson said. “The adults are all working very hard on this.” 

Children should do their part to be good team members, she said. 

Asked about her job, Krewson said, “Being the mayor of St. Louis is the best job ever.”

As mayor, she said, she gets to help people every day. 

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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