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St. Louis and St. Louis County order residents to stay home, as coronavirus cases multiply

St. Louis and St. Louis County order residents to stay home, as coronavirus cases multiply

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Few shoppers at Galleria

Few shoppers were in the St. Louis Galleria at 2:35 p.m. on Thursday, March 19, 2020. Most stores were shuttered. (Robert Cohen, rcohen@post-dispatch.com)

ST. LOUIS — St. Louis and St. Louis County leaders on Saturday ordered their 1.3 million residents to stay home, even as the governors of Missouri and Illinois made new pleas to slow the spread of the coronavirus — and the numbers of infected continued to multiply.

St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson and St. Louis County Executive Sam Page mandated residents stay home beginning Monday, with exceptions only for groceries, health care and critical household duties. The order excludes first responders, health care workers, plus the employees of a list of other “essential” businesses, when those workers are on duty.

“I wish we did not have to do this,” Krewson said Saturday. “This situation will only get worse — much worse — if we don’t act right now.”

Krewson said the new infections are not travel-related, and instead mark the beginning of the virus’ transfer between local residents.

St. Louis officials announced on Saturday three new cases, to 10 total. County officials reported eight additional cases, to 17 total. The new county cases include two people in their 50s, three in their 40s, and two in their 30s. Only one of those cases was clearly travel-related. The origins of the others were unknown, the county said.

Missouri reported 17 new cases, or 90 total, on Saturday; Illinois figures jumped another 168, to 753, and included an additional death, a man in his 70s from Cook County, bringing the state’s toll to six.

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker warned that the state’s coronavirus cases could reach 3,400 within a week, and called for former health care workers to “come back and join the fight against COVID-19.”

“We’re in the middle of battle and we need reinforcements,” the governor said during a Saturday afternoon briefing.

The state will waive fees and expedite licensures so such workers can start right away, he said. Medical professionals with expiring licenses will receive automatic renewals through September.

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson on Saturday detailed his new statewide order prohibiting gatherings of more than 10 people from just after midnight on Monday morning until April 6.

“This is a public health emergency,” Parson said at the Jefferson City press conference. “We must take all steps to stop the spread of COVID-19.”

He called for workers to work from home. He ordered all schools to close — though by Thursday all districts and charter schools had closed voluntarily, according to the state department of education. And he foreshadowed state relief for residents and critical services, such as allowing licensed child care providers to exceed their state-required capacity, giving automatic 60-day extensions to drivers licenses and vehicle registrations that expire in March and April, and extending the tax filing deadline to July 15.

Parson’s social distancing order says that people shall not gather at restaurants, bars and food courts, but drive-thru, pickup and delivery of food is allowed. People also cannot visit nursing homes, retirement facilities, long-term care facilities or assisted living homes unless they are providing critical care.

St. Louis’ stay-at-home order takes effect at 6 p.m. Monday. St. Louis County’s begins at 12:01 a.m Monday.

Each lasts at least 30 days and, if violated, carries a potential misdemeanor charge.

The city and county orders both exempt first responders, health care providers, utilities, grocers, restaurants that provide takeout service, and suppliers of “essential” businesses. Essential businesses, the orders say, include health care facilities, grocery stores, pharmacies, farms, food service, news media, gas stations, hardware stores, laundromats, hotels, construction services and homeless shelters.

Restaurants and bars will still be able to provide carryout meals.

St. Louis County’s order bars gatherings “of any number of people” outside homes or businesses and limits indoor gatherings of 10 or more people. Prohibited activities include going to “places of public amusement, whether indoors or outdoors,” such as amusement parks, zoos, museums, festivals, playgrounds, bowling alleys, theaters, country clubs, social clubs and athletic clubs. Residents are urged to wash hands frequently and practice “social distancing” by keeping at least six feet from other.

The county’s order also bans travel except for “essential activities.”

The new mandate for St. Louis and St. Louis County is the result of collaboration with leaders from St. Charles, Franklin and Jefferson counties that are also considering additional restrictions, officials said.

Page and Krewson urged people to stay home but said people may still exercise outside, access pharmacies, and go to the bank, gas station, veterinarian, doctor’s office, and auto repair shop, among other things.

“In fact, you should get outside to take a jog or go on a hike,” Page said in a tweet. “But remember: social distancing.”

Page’s order says people may continue to “go to work when and where they can without endangering their health or the health of others,” “engage in religious worship” and “other activities that are necessary and appropriate.”

Businesses, the order said, “may continue providing for the community’s needs,” and “nonessential businesses can maintain basic operation while their employees work from home. The order should also protect the ability of employees to get what they need to work from home.”

St. Charles County Executive Steve Ehlmann took a different approach Saturday, stating in a press release that he doesn’t believe the government should dictate which businesses should stay open and which should close.

“We will continue to educate our residents that they should stay home except to go to work and procure the services they feel are essential,” Ehlmann said.

Elaine Vydra, of the Post-Dispatch, contributed to this report.

St. Louis city government COVID-19 website

St. Louis County government COVID-19 website

COVID-19 cases in Missouri by county

COVID-19 cases in the United States

CDC fact sheet: Prevention and treatment

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