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Health, Science, Environment

St. Louis County To Tighten Limits On Bars, Crowds; City To Close Clubs Defying Rules

Standing in front of boxes of protective face masks, St. Louis County Executive Dr. Sam Page, announces changes in restrictions on bars and businesses on Monday, July 27, 2020.
BILL GREENBLATT
/
UPI
Standing in front of boxes of protective face masks, St. Louis County Executive Dr. Sam Page, announces changes in restrictions on bars and businesses on Monday.

Updated at 10:06 a.m. July 29 with names of the bars St. Louis has closed

Alarmed about a growing number of coronavirus cases, St. Louis County Executive Sam Page and St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson on Monday announced new actions aimed at curbing the rapid spread of the virus in the region.

Starting at 5 p.m. Friday, the county will limit gatherings to 50 people, businesses must operate at 25% of its occupancy limit, and all bars must close at 10 every night. Page said his office will begin closing businesses that are “not playing by the rules.”

The new restrictions will be in effect for at least a month, Page during a press conference Monday morning. "The decisions we made today will not bend the curve for at least three weeks," he said. "This step backwards to where we were in June, we believe, for the next four weeks ... will keep us from doing anything more drastic later in the year."

Page on Monday also recommended that people quarantine while awaiting coronavirus test results and called for people to wear masks while in public to contain the outbreak.

St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson tweeted Monday afternoon that the city's Department of Health would temporarily shut down businesses that "have so obviously ignored our #COVID19 public health orders requiring masks and social distancing, and as a result have jeopardized the health and safety of our community and the general public."

The health department delivered letters that ordered four businesses to close for two weeks, Krewson said during a press conference on Facebook live. The shuttered bars are Wheelhouse and Start Bar in downtown, Big Daddy’s on The Landing and Marquee Restaurant and Lounge off Locust Street in Downtown West.

Over the weekend, a video of unmasked partiers crowded inside the Wheelhouse, a downtown restaurant and nightclub, posted on social media prompted calls for the city to enforce its mask and social distancing rules. The video has since been removed from the bar’s social media accounts.

While many businesses are following public health orders, Krewson said, some are still defiant. She said she hopes the city ordering some bars closed will serve as a warning to others.

“We’re trying to avoid shutting down a whole classification of businesses, we don’t think that’s the fair thing to do,” Krewson said on Facebook Live. “We’re just using what I would call a more surgical approach to this, rather than a blanket approach.”

Leaders in both St. Louis County and St. Louis said their actions against bars follow a noted increase in cases among people under 40. People in their twenties account for nearly a third of all new cases in the past month in St. Louis, Krewson said. Meanwhile, people in their 60s account for only 6% of the city’s cases, and the percentage of cases continues to shrink for people older than 60, she said.

The restrictions follow an overall increase in cases in the region. Over the past week, the St. Louis metro area averaged about 610 cases per day. That’s an increase of about 27% from the week before. St. Louis County has the most reported COVID-19 cases and deaths in Missouri. On Sunday, 523 more people tested positive in the county. Page said a large number of those cases are people 20-29 years old.

The number of patients using ICU beds has been rising in region’s four major hospital systems since the end of June, according to data from the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force. Hospitals admitted an average of about 40 patients a day in the past week for coronavirus-related issues, a level the task force said could require local governments to order tighter restrictions.

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Page said he will work with the county health department to ensure health providers are issuing test results promptly. He acknowledged that some urgent care centers in the county have been slow to share test results with patients.

Further details about the county’s coronavirus guidelines will be released later this week, Page said.

St. Louis is one of 11 cities that need to take “aggressive” action to slow down coronavirus cases, Dr. Deborah Birx, a leader of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, said last week.

Page said he wanted to implement these restrictions ahead of the start of the school year. He said he hoped the restrictions would slow the spread of the virus to a point where parents have the option to send their children to schools for in-person learning. However, he strongly recommended that children start with virtual instruction if they are able.

Page appointed the county’s director of human services to identify “safe spaces” for teachers to quarantine if they begin experiencing symptoms.

Since March, more than 42,000 people in Missouri have tested positive for the virus. In the bi-state St. Louis region, more than 25,000 have.

St. Louis County already has canceled youth sports, citing a link between games and practices to positive cases of the virus.

Nearly 1,200 people have died of COVID-19 in the St. Louis area since the coronavirus first spread to the region in early spring. New cases began slowing after an initial peak in April but have increased rapidly in the metro area, Missouri and nationally since late June.

Follow Kayla on Twitter: @_kayladrake

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