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Page, Jones announce relaxed COVID-19 guidelines

CITY HALL – The day after the federal government significantly eased mask guidelines, county and city officials announced they were ending many of their COVID-19 directives.

But St. Louis County Executive Sam Page and St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones emphasized that the pandemic wasn’t over and that there still was a need for caution. In a news conference Friday in the City Hall Rotunda, they said that those who hadn’t yet been vaccinated still had to observe all guidelines, including masking, to protect themselves.

The CDC announced on Thursday that those who are fully vaccinated can resume activities that they did before the pandemic without wearing a mask or physical distancing. The exceptions to that change are where it’s required by federal, state, tribal or territorial laws, rules and regulations, including the guidance of local business and workplaces.

“While this is a welcome and exciting update for many of us, we must now more than ever stay cautious about our health and the health of our people around us,” Jones said. “Let me be clear: If you are not vaccinated, going indoors or in crowded areas without a face mask or face coverings still puts you at risk for contracting COVID-19.”

After a year of delivering bad news about the COVID-19 coronavirus, Page said it was a proud moment for the St. Louis region.

“It’s great to see more smiles. It’s great to hear the stories, family members that are spending more time together, because they can now do so safely, because they’ve been vaccinated,” Page said. 

“As more people get vaccinated and people who are not vaccinated wear masks, we expect to continue to go in the right direction,” he added. 

The county still has guidelines requiring quarantines for those suspected of having COVID-19, Page said. Mask-wearing orders in senior care facilities also will remain, he said. The vast majority of the county’s public health guidelines have been lifted, while the CDC directives remain.

Both Page and Jones encouraged people who haven’t gotten shots to get vaccinated.

Page also said CDC guidelines allowed businesses to ask if a customer has been vaccinated.

“We hope people will be patient and respect folks who want to keep their employees safe when the people are coming in. We still don’t know who’s been vaccinated,” he noted. 

Jones and Page encouraged people to free themselves from the sense of stigma about wearing masks.

“If you are vaccinated and still want to wear one, keep wearing it. I know I will,” Jones asserted. “If you’re vaccinated and don’t want to wear one, please don’t pass judgement on others who do.”

Jones said it was important to respect the policies of businesses that are keeping their mask mandates.

One other official who spoke at the news conference was acting City Health Director Dr. Fredrick Echols. He said the city was rescinding a set of 17 orders on business and youth sports during the pandemic.

Echols urged all businesses, academic institutions, religious institutions and places of worship, governmental agencies and individuals to comply with CDC guidance to further slow the spread of COVID-19.“

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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