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Drive-by protests express worry over reopening

(AP) — Restaurants and other nonessential businesses will be allowed to open their doors on Monday in St. Louis city and county, but some people in the region worry that it’s still too early in the area of Missouri stung hardest by the coronavirus.

A group called HealthB4Wealth staged drive-by protests Saturday, parading through parts of the region and honking horns. Organizers say that the region lacks enough personal protective equipment for essential workers if cases start to spike again, and that the city and county don’t have enough testing and contact tracing in place.

The stay-at-home order by Gov. Mike Parson, a Republican, expired May 4, allowing most of the state to reopen. St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson and St. Louis County Executive Sam Page, both Democrats, extended their orders through Sunday, limiting restaurants to delivery and curb-side service.

Missouri has reported 10,675 cases of COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, since the pandemic began, and 5,669 of those cases have been in St. Louis city and county combined. Of the state’s 589 reported deaths, 424 have been in the city and county.

The St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force offered a mixed report Saturday on data from the region’s major hospitals. New admissions for the coronavirus rose to 27 from 24, but the seven-day average of hospital admissions decreased by one to 25. The total number of hospitalized patients decreased to 493 from 505, but the number of patients in intensive care units rose by two to 122.

The head of the task force, Dr. Alex Garza, has stressed that safe reopening will require social distancing, people wearing facial protection, and good hygiene practices. Otherwise, he said Friday, the region could risk a new resurgence in cases.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms that clear up after two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.

Nearly 80 new coronavirus cases have been reported at a meat plant in northwest Missouri. The Kansas City Star reported that at least 490 employees at the Triumph Foods plant in St. Joseph have now tested positive, according to the state health department. That was an increase of 78 cases since numbers were previously reported on May 5.

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