City orders pullback on venue capacities

City orders pullback on venue capacities

CITY HALL – St. Louis is blinking in the standoff with the COVID-19 coronavirus. Cases continue to rise, so business reopenings have to take a step back.

The city has issued a new public safety order, No. 13. It takes effect Thursday and will run until Sept. 7. The new rules target clubs, bars and other venues that sell alcohol.

The reason for the targeting of nightclubs and bars is the troubling surge in coronavirus cases among young adults, who make up a large percentage of the clientele of such venues.

In Mayor Lyda Krewson’s online press conference Wednesday afternoon, she said that the COVID-19 numbers remained “stubbornly higher than we want” and that people ages 20-39 accounted for 53 percent of cases. And with colleges and universities opening for the fall semester, the numbers aren’t likely to go down any time soon, she noted.

So the city has to back up.

“I wish it weren’t necessary,” but health experts advise it, Krewson said. “Many of us hoped or believed … we would be on the other side of this COVID situation by now.”  The only real solution is a vaccine, she reminded listeners.

In addition to the new order for businesses, officials are making a “strong recommendation” that people keep their personal social gatherings”as small as possible” – below 25 – “even less if you possibly can,” the mayor said. She reminded people that businesses are having to shut down because they have one or two cases So even gatherings of family and friends can be risky.

She emphasized yet again that every person should wear a mask.

Here are the basic rules:

  1. Bars and other such venues that sell alcohol have to close at 11 p.m. (Any restaurants and other businesses that don’t sell alcohol don’t need to observe that closing time.)
  2. The affected venues, as well as large venues such as cultural institutions, can admit only 50 percent of normal capacity. This is a drop back from the 75 percent the city had recently allowed.
  3. Businesses should encourage employees to stay home if they are waiting for their COVID-19 test results or if they feel ill.

Krewson also discussed the status of financial aid for renters and homeowners threatened by eviction. Currently, a judge has halted evictions.

“No one can be evicted right now if the reason they are behind on their rent is COVID-related,” Krewson explained. However, she said, “People can still be evicted if it’s the result of some alleged criminal activity or something like that.”

She said that on Aug. 19 she would be asking the Board of Estimate and Apportionment to allocate $2 million more for a total of $4 million to help with rent and mortgages.

City officials are continuing to urge Rep. Lacy Clay, D-Mo., and Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., to work toward a new coronavirus relief package in Congress.

“We know that our residents need additional assistance,” Krewson said; the recent ending of the $600 federal unemployment benefit puts people in “a real pinch.” And schools need more help as they try to reopen.

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