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Virus spread could slow by mid to late April if orders followed, St. Louis mayor says
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Virus spread could slow by mid to late April if orders followed, St. Louis mayor says

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ST. LOUIS — Mayor Lyda Krewson said Friday that if area residents continue to comply with stay-at-home orders and other restrictions, the regional spread of the coronavirus could slow by mid- to late-April.

Asked in a Facebook Live question-and-answer session when the number of new cases might level off, Krewson replied, “We don’t know that. We’re four days into this stay-at-home order.”

But Krewson said she had talked Thursday with the heads of the area’s three major hospital systems. “They are all doing modeling for when will the peak hit. They don’t know for sure; they’re thinking the latter part of April, mid- to late-April, but it just really depends on how much the stay-at-home order, how much it actually flattens the curve.”

She warned, however, that it was early in the process and a lot depends on compliance with the order and other restrictions. She also said Gov. Mike Parson should issue a statewide stay-at-home order. “I think it’s just a good idea for everyone to stay home” except for people deemed as providing essential services.

Krewson said the city’s order could be extended beyond its current April 22 expiration date if the number of cases doesn’t start leveling off.

In an emailed statement, an SSM Health spokesman said, “We have been doing predictive modeling that projects there may be flattening ahead, although that is still several weeks away and could easily change. For now, the best thing St. Louisans can do to protect themselves and our community is to continue practicing social distancing, wash hands frequently and thoroughly, and disinfect frequently touched surfaces often.”

Dr. Clay Dunagan, chief clinical officer at BJC HealthCare, said it is “very early to be making projections.”

“Health care systems must project out for our own surge planning purposes and we will learn more and frequently adjust any models as the outbreak continues to unfold,” Dunagan said in an emailed statement.

Representatives for Mercy did not immediately respond when asked about Krewson’s comments.

Doug Moore, spokesman for St. Louis County Executive Sam Page, said in an email that there are a lot of models and they change frequently, and county officials have been hesitant to make predictions.

Krewson’s comments came hours after she ordered all playgrounds in the city closed. Her spokesman, Jacob Long, said in an email that he did not anticipate additional restrictions on outdoor activities. “But like with everything with this situation, we’re constantly evaluating,” he wrote.

People are likely to flock outdoors this weekend to take advantage of warmer weather, and Krewson said getting outside and going to the city’s 109 parks is beneficial both physically and mentally, as long as people respect social distancing procedures, including staying at least 6 feet away from others.

Long said the vast majority of people “are complying with the (stay at home) order thus far — and want to do the right thing.”

Violating the order is a class A misdemeanor carrying fines of up to $2,000, but Long said the intent of the order was not to send police around issuing citations. Long said officials have so far received only anecdotal information about groups in parks or other places.

Asked if the city has received complaints about businesses being open, Long said most of the questions concern clarifying which businesses should be open, not formal complaints.

University City officials on Friday said that general areas of parks, trails, tennis courts, the dog park and the Ruth Park Golf Course would stay open as long as people “observe all federal, state, county and city protocols and mandates.”

Moore, in Page’s office, said he also did not expect additional restrictions on outdoor activities at this time, other than the use of basketball courts. Moore said it’s being discussed because social distancing rules meant to reduce transmission of the virus are not being followed there.

St. Louis County Counselor Beth Orwick said her office had received more than 150 emails. Those emails were a mix of “people asking if they are complying and questioning whether others are complying. Overall, people are seeking clarity,” she wrote in an email.

In St. Clair County, Herb Simmons, director of the county Emergency Management Agency, said he and other officials are concerned that some people are engaging in outdoor activities without adhering to social distancing guidelines.

He said officials in Shiloh on Friday took down the hoops at an outdoor basketball court to discourage activity there after more than 20 people gathered on Thursday. And in Mascoutah, he said, officials shut down an outdoor running track for the same reason.

He added that he held a conference call with county mayors and the state’s attorney “to try to reinforce the fact that we have to keep these large groups down” to try to halt the spread of COVID-19.

State officials on Friday also updated the count of new cases and deaths.

Missouri authorities said there were 670 cases and nine deaths so far. But they did not include an additional death reported by St. Charles County officials. In Illinois, there have been 3,026 cases and 34 deaths to date, including St. Clair County’s first, a woman in her 80s with underlying health conditions.

Parson’s office on Friday said the Missouri National Guard will be mobilized to help state and local authorities fight the spread of the virus.

And Page, in a statement about the passage of the $2 trillion stimulus package by Congress, said it could mean “far more than $100 million” for the county’s fight to slow the spread of the virus.

COVID-19 cases in the United States

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