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New restrictions triggered in Metro East as coronavirus rate surpasses 8% positivity for third day
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New restrictions triggered in Metro East as coronavirus rate surpasses 8% positivity for third day

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Outdoor dining in Belleville continues

"The tables are spread out and everything seems sanitized. I feel safe," said Kyle Schloesser, right, who grabs dinner with Katlyn Geotz, on Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2020 at Tavern On Main in Belleville. That city has expanded outside and patio seating by closing side streets for downtown patrons during the coronavirus pandemic. (Laurie Skrivan, lskrivan@post-dispatch.com)

ST. CLAIR COUNTY — Bars and restaurants here now are facing restrictions similar to those imposed in St. Louis city and county designed to slow the spread of the coronavirus, with a curfew and stricter table seating limits to be imposed beginning Tuesday.

The rate of positive coronavirus tests in the Metro East has exceeded 8% for the third day in a row, a benchmark that Illinois health officials have warned could spur new restrictions on gatherings and businesses. On Sunday, the positivity rate reached 10.1% in St. Clair County.

A report on Sunday said 8.5% of coronavirus tests were positive in the state’s region four, which includes Madison, St. Clair, Bond, Clinton, Monroe, Randolph and Washington counties. The data is delayed and represents tests through Thursday. On Saturday, that number was 8.4%.

The Metro East passed the mark for the first time Friday with an 8.2% positivity rate, the highest among the 11 regions under the state’s reopening plan.

New restrictions to begin Tuesday include bars and restaurants being required to close at 11 p.m., a limit of six people per table, with tables set 6 feet apart and reservations required in order to dine or drink. Barstools will be removed from bars as no bar seating will be allowed. No dancing or standing is allowed at bars or restaurants.

“(State officials) feel that that environment is conducive to the spread of COVID,” St. Clair County Board chair Mark Kern said during a Facebook live video on Sunday. “If there’s music, then people talk loudly, (and) there’s more spray that goes on. So they want everybody to sit at a table. They’re also talking about taking reservations at restaurants and bars, and the purpose of that is to provide a record of who was there. In case someone does come down with COVID who has been at a restaurant, they’ll be able to track more easily who was there so they can isolate people so as not to spread the germ.”

Banquet halls are to be closed and party buses are not allowed. Casinos are required to close at 11 p.m. and operate at 25% capacity. Gatherings are limited to 25 people or fewer.

In order to return to more lax restrictions, the region must show a positivity rate of 6.5% or under for 14 consecutive days.

“We’re in it for the long haul,” St. Clair County Executive Director Herb Simmons said Sunday.

The Illinois Department of Public Health on Sunday reported 1,562 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 for a total of 206,081 cases and 7,744 deaths. Missouri reported totals of 67,475 cases and 1,367 deaths on Sunday, up from 66,397 cases and 1,346 deaths on Saturday. The St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force — which is made up of BJC HealthCare, Mercy, SSM Health and St. Luke’s hospitals — reported on Sunday that new hospital admissions decreased from 39 on Saturday to 37, with data lagging by two days.

The seven-day rolling average of hospital admissions increased from 40 on Saturday to 41 on Sunday.

The group also said that because of a delay in test results, some data had changed from its previous report — the Saturday hospital admission number increased from 38 to 39, but the seven-day rolling average did not change.

The seven-day rolling average of hospitalizations decreased from 275 Saturday to 274.

The number of patients in intensive care remained at 75; 40 patients were on ventilators, down five from the day before. A total of 4,521 patients have been discharged from local hospitals during the pandemic, including 33 on Saturday.

The number of hospitalized patients with confirmed cases of COVID-19 climbed slightly, from 271 on Saturday to 273, and those with suspected cases dropped by four, from 128 to 124.

St. Louis County reported 16,614 cases, an increase of 205 from the day earlier but no more deaths, keeping that total at 678. Its average rate of positive tests for the last week was 8.6%, it said.

St. Charles County reported 4,533 positive cases and 104 deaths.

St. Louis reported 5,614 cases, a one-day rise of 61, and 181 deaths.

Jefferson County last updated its online data on Friday, when it reported a total of 2,006 positive cases, with 28 deaths.

Franklin County reported Sunday that its official count, as of a day earlier, was 725, with 20 new cases and a total of 19 deaths.

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"We easily will hit six-figure numbers in terms of the number of cases," Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, said Friday night. "And the deaths are going to go up precipitously in the next three to four weeks."

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