CITY HALL – Mayor Lyda Krewson had good news on Monday about COVID-19 and the 9 p.m. curfew she imposed following riots the night of June 1-2.
In a Facebook Live briefing, Krewson said she was lifting the curfew after a non-violent weekend of protesting. And she said the number of people hospitalized locally was lower than it had been in a long time, although she cautioned that it could spike again.
Krewson signed prior to the briefing an order ending the curfew immediately. She had ordered the curfew last Tuesday morning after a night that included looting, rioting, burning, the shooting of four police officers and the killing of a retired city police captain.
“I’m pretty confident that the people of St. Louis will continue to express themselves in a nonviolent way, and certainly hope that is the case, because none of us want to go back to a curfew,” Krewson said.
Regarding COVID-19, she said that 279 people were hospitalized with COVID-19.
“That is the lowest number we have seen in a long time; dipping below 300 is great news,” the mayor said. She cautioned that those 279 people were still quite sick, but noted that only 37 people were on ventilators.
“We are getting there because everyone is using their masks. Most of us are socially distancing, washing our hands in this whole routine that we have,” Krewson said.
Krewson also said that free COVID-19 tests now are available to anyone, regardless of whether he or she has symptoms. People can find the 10 locations in the city on the St. Louis website, stlouis-mo.gov.
A total of 260,000 tests are available for the city to use.
Speaking of the protests, the mayor also said the city had signed on to a pledge with the Obama Foundation to work to improve the police department.
The pledge, supported by police Chief John Hayden and Public Safety Director Jimmie Edwards, calls for committing to a review of the use-of-force policy. It also commits the city to engaging the community and to report its findings. In addition, the city commits to reform.
“Our police department already has many excellent policies in place,” Krewson said. “Under the leadership of Chief Hayden, I think our police department has done a really excellent job of a very measured response and exercising a lot of self-restraint, which has been beneficial here in St. Louis.”
Krewson spoke against the concept raised in some cities of defunding the police department.
“Some people think it means abolishing the police department. Some people think it means taking money and moving it from its department to other social services,” Krewson said.
However, the mayor said the department was short about 140 officers with a pay scale that’s not competitive with St. Louis County.
“Those things make it difficult on our recruiting and on our retention, so I don’t think defunding the police department is the best way to get the best police department,” she said. “You don’t take something you want incremental changes in and improvements in and starve them.”