CoronavirusNewsPoliticsThe SouthSider

Virus casts long shadow, one year since city’s first case

CITY HALL – After a devastating year of living with COVID-19, officials hope the deaths and hospitalizations the disease brought locally could ease up soon. With more people receiving vaccines, with $1,400 checks coming to most and $500 million in relief money coming to St. Louis, they speak about making the difficult times a memory.

“As we reflect on how far we’ve come, let us remember the 440 St. Louisans we’ve lost,” Mayor Lyda Krewson said Tuesday on her Facebook page. A year ago Tuesday, the city recorded its first COVID-19 coronavirus case.

“We’ve got to keep their families in mind,” Krewson said in her regular briefing on Monday. “This has been just a very devastating virus for our community. And last year, on this day, I doubt any of us were thinking that we would still be doing this, a year, a year from now. And it looks like we’ll be doing this for a while longer, although our numbers are down. And we hope that they will stay down and go down even farther.”

The numbers tell the story. Since the pandemic began in the city, there have been 20,245 cases of COVID-19 and 440 deaths. But the daily number of confirmed cases dropped from a high of 168 on Nov. 3 to 17 on Monday.

The mayor also said Monday that the latest figures showed that 267 people were hospitalized with COVID 19. Of those, 72 were in the ICU and 45 were on ventilators. The region is averaging 37 people admitted to hospitals a day, she said..

“Those numbers are still good, but we are concerned about the recent uptick or plateauing of these numbers,” Krewson said.

Meanwhile, the city held its 14th mass vaccination event on Saturday, with about 1,500 people getting their first doses of the vaccine. A total of 316 people received second doses on Sunday. 

Altogether, about 38,000 people have received their first doses, while about 20,000 more have received both their first and second shots.

Speaking of complaints that rural areas are getting proportionately more vaccines and that urban areas aren’t getting enough, Krewson explained, the city is getting more vaccines. St. Louis also is working with the state to get more “mega” events with many more doses.

But Krewson argued that St. Louis still needed more vaccines because of the large number of people in the city who are older than 65 or who have underlying health conditions. Work is also underway to vaccinate teachers.

Krewson encouraged people to use a website called vaccinefinder.org to find appointments to get a shot.

The mayor also said an allocation of about $500 million from the recently passed $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan should help to get the city over the troubles caused by the COVID-19 coronavirus.

Through the American Recovery Plan, cities such as St. Louis will receive funds to recapture some of the money they have lost. In the case of St. Louis, that’s as much as $70 million a year

St. Louis will receive about $500 million; Kansas City will get about $190 million. St. Louis is getting more because of higher indications of poverty.    

The city is laying out a framework for spending the money.

“The first half of this money will be here on or around May 11,” Krewson said. “The second half of the money will be here a year from now.” It all must be spent by the end of 2024.  

Jim Merkel

southsidemerkel@gmail.com 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 www.jimmerkelthewriter.com.

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