CITY HALL – Mayor Lyda Krewson hopes that the city will be able to start easing up on its COVID-19 restrictions in the middle of May. But how much St. Louis can ease up on those restrictions and how long some of them will stay around in some form is uncertain.
Krewson and city Health Director Dr. Fredrick Echols touched on the topic in a virtual town hall focused on city neighborhood groups and block units on Thursday night. In the event, aired on Facebook, Zoom and YouTube, Echols and Krewson gave updates on the current situation and answered calls and written questions from all over the area.
St. Louis city and St. Louis County issued a stay-at-home order on March 23.
“We really led the way with the state,” Krewson said.
“The result of that is that we have pretty much tamped down the spread of COVID-19 in the St. Louis area,” Krewson said.
Up to now, St. Louis County Executive Sam Page has said he plans to maintain his stay-in-place order indefinitely. Gov. Mike Parson’s emergency order will expire on Monday. St. Charles and Jefferson counties will go along with the governor’s directive. As for going along with what the state is doing, Krewson said, “We’re not following the lead of the governor.”
But Echols and Krewson both emphasized that as the pandemic reduces its hold, the one weapon that people have in our arsenal to fight COVID-19 is our behavior.
“We’re hoping that by the fall semester, kids will be able to go to school,” Krewson said.
Asked whether the Muny, the Repertory Theater of St. Louis and the St. Louis Symphony might open soon, Krewson said she’d like for that to happen.
“I am so ready to go to one of those performance venues. But I don’t think it’s safe to do it right now,” Krewson said.
Like sports venues that attract thousands of people, the fine arts venues would probably open last, Krewson said.
“Right now, we have a 10-person social gathering limit in place, and maybe next we’ll go to 50 or 100, but those have several thousands,”she reminded listeners.
One factor mentioned as helping to bring an end to the problems with COVID-19 is the availability of tests for everyone, regardless of whether they have symptoms. But Echols and the mayor said that wasn’t possible right now.
“We don’t have sufficient supplies or testing materials to offer to the general public,” Echols said. However, once adequate supplies of testing materials are available, the city will make them available to everybody, regardless of whether they have symptoms.
On another matter, Echols said the city was working with various organizations to get personal protective equipment, including masks. The mayor also reported that the stock of some of the city’s food banks had been depleted.
Echols acknowledged that long-standing inequities had made African-Americans more likely to get COVID-19.
“We have to have strategies in place to address these inequities,” he said.
So far, two-thirds of the cases in Missouri have been in the St. Louis region. As of April 30, there were 1,145 cases in St. Louis and 64 deaths. St. Louis County has the greatest number of cases, at 3,136, and 159 deaths; and there were 583 reported cases in St. Charles County and 34 deaths. Missouri had a total of 7,562 cases and 329 deaths.