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Coronavirus

Local Updates: COVID-19 In The St. Louis Region

The coronavirus is spreading in the St. Louis region. This blog will track COVID-19 updates in the metro area, Missouri and Illinois.
Nat Thomas, David Kovaluk
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St. Louis Public Radio

Friday, Feb. 19

Good morning, and thank you for following our daily coronavirus blog. This will be the final entry. As case numbers go down and vaccine efforts ramp up, we’re redirecting our energy into our weekly newsletter, Look//Read//Listen. Sign up in the box above, and you’ll get all the week’s biggest local coronavirus updates straight to your inbox.

Have a question or concern? Please send me an email: ltoler@stlpublicradio.org.

Stay healthy.

— Lindsay Toler

4:45 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 18

Good evening.

The St. Louis City NAACP says inmates in Missouri prisons are not being prioritized for vaccinations. The organization filed complaints against the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services alleging the state agency is not meeting priority guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The complaints were filed with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights and the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice.

In the complaints, St. Louis City NAACP President Adolphus Pruitt stated that by not meeting those guidelines, the state is violating a section of the Affordable Care Act that prohibits discrimination based on race, color, national origin, sex, age or a disability in certain health programs or activities.

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker visited a mass COVID-19 vaccination site at the Belle-Clair Fairgrounds in St. Clair County on Thursday. County officials said the location can administer 2,000 vaccine doses a day, but that’s when the state has enough vaccines.

St. Clair County is averaging around 1,300 daily vaccinations across all sites, according to data from the Illinois Department of Public Health. Pritzker said that number will increase as Illinois receives more vaccine shipments, including 500,000 doses he expects from the federal government next week.

— Marissanne Lewis-Thompson and Eric Schmid

9 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 18

Good morning. If you’ve found this blog useful, don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter in the box above to have the best of our coronavirus coverage sent straight to your inbox.

Severe cold weather and snow had a chilling effect on vaccine efforts in the St. Louis region, but officials say the region will make up for lost time when the temperature rises. Vaccination appointments from this week have been rescheduled. “The snow has certainly slowed down our vaccination schedule this week, but we’re going to make that up quickly,” said Dr. Alex Garza, head of the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force. Read more from 5 on Your Side: 'We're Gonna Make That Up' | Task Force Says Snow Slowed Vaccine Effort, Will Pick Back Up Soon.

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People across the St. Louis region are using a Facebook group to hunt for available vaccine doses. Our Chad Davis spoke with members who say they’re struggling to get their parents and high-risk family members to vaccination appointments close to home. Read the full story: St. Louisans Search Other Areas For COVID-19 Vaccine, Raising Questions About Equity.

How is the coronavirus trending locally? Here are the key takeaways:

  • Cases are decreasing in the St. Louis region. The metro area has seen about 456 new coronavirus cases per day over the past week. That's down 25% over last week, according to data gathered by the New York Times.
  • In the past week, 178 people in the St. Louis region have died of COVID-19.
  • Since March, there have been 246,437 total cases and 4,329 total deaths in the metro area.
  • Missouri is processing an average of 5,899 tests per day over the past week, and 6% of those have been positive. Illinois is processing an average of 57,415 tests per day over the past week, and 2% of those have been positive.
  • Check out our data dashboard for more.

— Lindsay Toler

4:45 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 17

Good evening.

The COVID vaccine clinic scheduled for Saturday at the University of Missouri-St. Louis is on. Most state-run clinics for this week were canceled because of the winter weather. Sign-ups for Saturday’s event, which are required, begin Thursday and can be made at covidvaccine.mo.gov. There are about 2,200 doses available at the clinic for people currently eligible for the vaccine under state guidelines.

Adults can play indoor contact sports again in St. Louis County. The county is allowing high-contact indoor athletics to resume this week for adults, so long as everyone is wearing a mask. For outdoor sports, masks will be optional.

The first coronavirus vaccines for people being held in the two jails in St. Louis will be distributed this week. Officials with the city’s public safety department had identified 65 individuals who would be eligible for the vaccine based on their age or underlying medical conditions if they were not behind bars. Twenty-two of them have consented, and jail employees will be working to get more to agree to get vaccinated. There are currently 889 people at the two jails.

— Ryan Delaney

9 a.m. Wednesday, Feb. 17

Good morning and thank you to the readers of this blog. We hope it’s been a useful and convenient place to find local information about pandemic response. This will be our last week posting daily updates here. Want to get weekly updates sent straight to your inbox? Sign up for our newsletter by entering your email address in the box above.

Today is Ash Wednesday, and churches have changed how they’re observing the religious holiday to keep people safe from the coronavirus. For example, Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Webster Groves will give observers a plastic bag with a purple Q-tip “loaded” with ashes on the tip. A priest will say a blessing from a distance, and parishioners will place the ashes on their own foreheads. Read more about how churches are adapting: Q-Tips To Drive-Thru Services: Churches Get Creative This Ash Wednesday.

St. Louis County plans to ease restrictions on youth sports as the number of coronavirus cases continues to drop. County Executive Sam Page will announce more details in a briefing today. The changes will allow full team practices and tournaments for all youth and adult sports leagues. There will still be some restrictions, such as allowing a maximum of two spectators per athlete at outdoor games. Read more from 5 on Your Side: St. Louis County Executive To Announce Easing Of Youth Sports Coronavirus Restrictions.

How is the coronavirus trending locally? Here are the key takeaways:

  • Coronavirus cases are decreasing in the St. Louis region. The metro area has seen about 489 new cases per day over the last week. That's down 19% over last week, according to data gathered by the New York Times.
  • In the last week, 153 people in the St. Louis region have died of COVID-19.
  • Since March, there have been 245,905 total cases and 4,300 total deaths in the metro area.
  • Missouri is processing an average of 6,796 tests per day over the last week, and 6% of those have been positive. Illinois is processing an average of 64,070 tests per day over the last week, and 2% of those have been positive.
  • Check out our data dashboard for more.

— Lindsay Toler

9 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 16

Good morning.

Vaccine doses have been so scarce near St. Louis that people have started traveling to rural parts of the state to find one. Reporter Kayla Drake interviewed St. Louis-area residents who traveled to Cape Girardeau, Caruthersville, Columbia, Hannibal and Rolla to receive shots. They say they heard about vaccination events through a grapevine of Facebook posts and emails forwarded along by friends and acquaintances. Read the full story: Scores Of St. Louisans Travel To Rural Missouri Seeking COVID-19 Vaccine.

Have you traveled outside the metro St. Louis region to get a vaccine? We’d like to hear what that was like for you. Did you have to drive far? Did you get an appointment for a second dose? Inform our reporting by sending an email about your experience to feedback@stlpublicradio.org.

The U.S. is currently administering over 1.6 million shots a day, a notable increase from the Biden administration’s goal of 1 million shots per day for the first 100 days in office. See the numbers broken down state-by-state in NPR’s coronavirus vaccine tracker: How Is The COVID-19 Vaccination Campaign Going In Your State?

As of yesterday, 10.3% of Missourians have received their first dose of the vaccine, according to the state, while 7.1% of St. Louis County residents, 8.1% of St. Charles County residents and 9.1% of St. Louis residents have gotten their first shots.

How is the coronavirus trending locally? Here are the key takeaways:

  • Coronavirus cases are decreasing in the St. Louis region. The metro area has seen about 488 new cases per day over the last week. That's down 30% over last week, according to data gathered by the New York Times.
  • In the last week, 157 people in the St. Louis region have died of COVID-19.
  • Since March, there have been 245,430 total cases and 4,296 total deaths in the metro area.
  • Missouri is processing an average of 8,850 tests per day over the last week, and 5% of those have been positive. Illinois is processing an average of 69,250 tests per day over the last week, and 2% of those have been positive.
  • Check out our data dashboard for more.

— Lindsay Toler

5:50 p.m. Monday, Feb. 15

Missouri officials have canceled mass COVID-19 vaccination events planned for today through Friday because of inclement weather.

Gov. Mike Parson said state officials will reschedule the events. He said cancellations will not change the state’s weekly allotment of vaccines.

The Missouri National Guard and the state Department of Health and Senior Services will host a mass vaccination event at the University of Missouri-St. Louis on Saturday.

The event will be held at the school’s student center from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. or until the supply runs out. UMSL officials said in a press release that state health officials will schedule appointments for people who pre-registered on Missouri’s vaccine registration portal. People eligible for the vaccine include:

  • Priority populations: health care workers, long-term care facility residents.
  • First responders, emergency services, and public health infrastructure.
  • High-risk individuals.

State officials announced earlier this month that 23% of the state’s weekly vaccine allotment will go toward mass vaccination events across Missouri.

Saturday’s event comes weeks after St. Louis and St. Louis County held their own mass vaccinations at Union Station and at the Florissant Valley campus of St. Louis Community College in Ferguson.

The St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force reported 33 new COVID-19 admissions.

The task force reported that 341 patients are hospitalized with COVID-19, while 80 people are in intensive care and 53 people are on ventilators.

— Chad Davis

9 a.m. Monday, Feb. 15

Good morning. St. Clair County is making changes to its COVID-19 vaccination scheduling this weekend after hundreds of ineligible people made appointments. How did people from Missouri, Indiana, Wisconsin, Michigan and even California get appointments meant for St. Clair County seniors and health professionals? Officials say people shared the link and password to the appointment scheduler through email, text message and social media. Anyone who didn’t meet age, residency or job criteria was turned away. No vaccine doses were wasted Friday, according to county leaders. Read more via the Belleville News-Democrat: St. Clair County Tweaks COVID Vaccine Process After Ineligible People Made Appointments.

So what should you do if you get a vaccination appointment before you're eligible? St. Louis University law professor Ruqaiijah Yearb says while it’s tempting to get the shot as soon as possible, the best choice is to wait your turn: “It’s important to focus on people who have the highest risk of exposure. ... Otherwise it’s just going to continue to spread and mutate and be with all of us.” Read the full Q&A with health reporter Sarah Fentem: Why You Should Wait Your Turn To Get The Coronavirus Vaccine.

How is the coronavirus trending locally? Here are the key takeaways:

  • Cases are decreasing in the St. Louis region. The metro area has seen about 519 new coronavirus cases per day over the past week. That's down 27% over last week, according to data gathered by the New York Times.
  • In the past week, 169 people in the St. Louis region have died of COVID-19.
  • Since March, there have been 245,182 total cases and 4,292 total deaths in the metro area.
  • Missouri is processing an average of 8,651 tests per day over the past week, and 5% of those have been positive. Illinois is processing an average of 69,723 tests per day over the past week, and 2% of those have been positive.
  • Check out our data dashboard for more.

— Lindsay Toler

6 p.m. Friday, Feb. 12

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new guidance Friday for how schools can reopen safely. The updated guidance includes four different reopening scenarios based on the level of community spread of the virus in a given school district. CDC officials say it is possible to safely reopen schools, but only with strict enforcement of safety measures including masking and social distancing. The new guidelines also express caution about resuming indoor sports. The CDC noted that it could issue further updates to the reopening guidance depending on the prevalence of newly emerging variants of the coronavirus that are more contagious.

The task force that St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson appointed to investigate an inmate uprising at the City Justice Center will look at the facility’s COVID-19 policies. Task force member Pamela Walker, a former director of the city’s department of health, will perform a CDC survey of the City Justice Center’s safety protocols to determine if they are in line with guidelines. Some detainees have complained that they lack face coverings to defend against the virus.

The Corrections Task Force also asked Justice Center officials to increase the number of coronavirus tests they offer to detainees. St. Louis Corrections Commissioner Dale Glass told the task force that anyone who wants a test can have one.

New COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths in the St. Louis region continue to trend downward from recent peaks, said Dr. Alex Garza, head of the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force. There were 41 new daily admissions, with a seven-day moving average of 46. There were seven deaths and a seven-day moving average of six. Garza cautioned that there is still widespread community spread of the virus and urged the public to keep following safety precautions like masking and social distancing.

— Jeremy D. Goodwin

9 a.m. Friday, Feb. 12

Good morning, and happy Friday. It’s going to be a bitterly cold weekend, so bundle up. Here’s a little good news to start your day: Missouri’s coronavirus positivity rate is under 10% for the first time since October.

That news got overshadowed in a contentious press conference with Missouri Gov. Mike Parson yesterday. Parson accused Dr. Alex Garza, the head of the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force, of “cherry-picking” vaccine distribution data solely to spread “fear and panic.” Garza has said the St. Louis region — the most populous in the state — has so far received half of the number of vaccine doses promised. Parson denied that the St. Louis area isn’t receiving its fair share of vaccine. Members of the task force did not respond specifically to Parson’s accusations except to say they were confident in their vaccine estimates. Read more from reporter Jaclyn Driscoll: Missouri Governor Says Head Of St. Louis Pandemic Task Force Is Lying To Cause Fear.

How is the coronavirus trending locally? Here are the key takeaways:

  • Cases are decreasing in the St. Louis region. The metro area has seen about 609 new coronavirus cases per day over the past week. That's down 16% over last week, according to data gathered by the New York Times.
  • In the past week, 126 people in the St. Louis region have died of COVID-19.
  • Since March, there have been 243,966 total cases and 4,221 total deaths in the metro area.
  • Missouri is processing an average of 8,121 tests per day over the past week, and 6% of those have been positive. Illinois is processing an average of 64,881 tests per day over the past week, and 3% of those have been positive.
  • Check out our data dashboard for more.

— Lindsay Toler

5 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 11

The number of people going to hospitals for COVID-19 continues to decline. The St. Louis Metropolitan Task Force reported 42 new COVID-19 admissions to hospitals around the area. That’s below the seven-day moving average of 47 new admissions a day. Seven people died of COVID-19.

The total number of hospitalizations, 367, is also below the seven-day moving average of 400. There are 92 people in area ICUs, and 59 are using ventilators. And 68 patients were discharged Wednesday from hospitals.

Gov. Mike Parson has signed a bill into law allowing for the spending of $324 million in rental assistance throughout the state.

The federal money was made available to states in December but had to be approved by the legislature and governor. The bill allows use of the money to help those who can’t pay rent or utilities because of the economic impact of the pandemic. It also provides relief for landlords.

— Jason Rosenbaum

9 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 11

Good morning.

Fewer than 50 new patients checked in to St. Louis-area hospitals with COVID-19 yesterday for the third day in a row. The number of hospitalizations has dropped below 400 patients — the lowest number since October, according to data from the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force. Read more from our news partners at 5 on Your Side: St. Louis Area Hospitals Report Fewer Than 400 COVID-19 Patients For First Time Since October 2020.

The Big Top venue in Grand Center will reopen for circus, theater, dance and musical performances with coronavirus safety measures in place, though no specific date has been set. The Kranzberg Arts Foundation announced it will reopen the circus tent for performances by Circus Flora, Dance St. Louis and Big Muddy Dance Company. The venue also will host concerts and theatrical performances. Read more from reporter Jeremy D. Goodwin: Grand Center’s Big Top Will Reopen For Performances Throughout 2021.

How is the coronavirus trending locally? Here are the key takeaways:

  • Cases are decreasing in the St. Louis region. The metro area has seen about 612 new coronavirus cases per day over the past week. That's down 25% over last week, according to data gathered by the New York Times.
  • In the past week, 67 people in the St. Louis region have died of COVID-19.
  • Since March, there have been 243,242 total cases and 4,151 total deaths in the metro area.
  • Missouri is processing an average of 7,812 tests per day over the past week, and 7% of those have been positive. Illinois is processing an average of 66,104 tests per day over the past week, and 3% of those have been positive.
  • Check out our data dashboard for more.

— Lindsay Toler

5:45 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 10

More vaccines are coming. St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson said the St. Louis Health Department will soon start getting weekly shipments of 900 doses of vaccine from the state. She also expects a one-time shipment of 3,900 vaccines next week from the state. Those vaccines will be reserved for people who need their second dose.

Retired and licensed out-of-state health care workers can now administer vaccines in Missouri. Department of Health and Senior Services Director Dr. Randall Williams authorized the change based on the current need for more vaccine administrators.

Illinois has added more than 100 new vaccination locations in the last week. New sites in the metropolitan region include the Madison County Health Department, HSHS St. Elizabeth's Hospital in O'Fallon and several Walgreens locations. Here’s a map of all Illinois vaccination locations.

“No more on-campus parties,” St. Louis University administrators warned students in a letter. They said “severe” COVID-19 restrictions could be necessary due to rising COVID-19 cases. Within the last three weeks, 66 students have tested positive for the virus.

St. Louis County Library will soon start loaning out tablets designed for seniors. The library purchased 1,500 tablets with federal aid to help older low-income adults stay connected with their families and up-to-date on how to register for the vaccine. It’s part of the county’s Digital Equity Initiative.

— Corinne Ruff

9 a.m. Wednesday, Feb. 10

Missouri’s plan to send vaccine doses to Walmart, Sam’s Club and Health Mart pharmacies this week is drawing criticism from St. Louis, where there are no Walmarts or Sam’s Clubs and only three Health Mart locations within city limits. St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson sent a letter last week asking the governor to include Walgreens and CVS pharmacies. Read more from health reporter Sarah Fentem: Missouri's Walmart, Sam's Club Pharmacies Will Start Carrying Coronavirus Vaccines This Week.

Not everyone gets a coronavirus test, but everyone uses the toilet. So scientists are testing sewage samples from Missouri wastewater treatment facilities for genetic evidence of the coronavirus. The researchers also are testing the samples for mutations, including a new, more contagious coronavirus variant recently found in Marion County. They’re looking at how resistant those variants are to coronavirus immunizations. Read our story: Scientists Are Looking For Coronavirus Variants In Missouri's Sewers.

How is the coronavirus trending locally? Here are the key takeaways:

  • Cases are decreasing in the St. Louis region. The metro area has seen about 609 new coronavirus cases per day over the past week. That's down 29% over last week, according to data gathered by the New York Times.
  • In the past week, 133 people in the St. Louis region have died of COVID-19.
  • Since March, there have been 242,484 total cases and 4,147 total deaths in the metro area.
  • Missouri is processing an average of 8,678 tests per day over the past week, and 7% of those have been positive. Illinois is processing an average of 68,736 tests per day over the past week, and 3% of those have been positive.
  • Check out our data dashboard for more.

— Lindsay Toler

5:35 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 9

St. Louis County will increase capacity limits for all businesses starting Thursday. The change, which includes bars and restaurants, allows up to 50% capacity.

Other precautions will remain in place, like the 11 p.m. curfew for bars and restaurants. County officials said improving coronavirus numbers for hospitalizations and compliance with public health orders meant they could relax more rules.

Just like in St. Louis County, St. Clair County in Illinois could run out of COVID-19 vaccines by Friday if the state doesn’t provide more. The county leads the Metro East in the number of doses administered, averaging around 1,350 per day. County Board Chair Mark Kern said it's working to secure more doses from the Illinois Department of Public Health.

Nearly 4,000 people in St. Clair County, about 1.5% of the population, have received both vaccination shots.

More than 100 retail pharmacies in Missouri will augment the state’s vaccination effort under the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program. The locations include 81 Walmart and Sam’s Club pharmacies and 21 Health Mart pharmacies, which will receive vaccines from a federal allocation and not from the state.

The 102 total pharmacies will receive more than 18,000 doses per week, and eligible residents can make an appointment on the Walmart and Sam’s Club websites once vaccination slots are available.

Eric Schmid

9 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 9

Good morning.

The St. Louis County Department of Health expects to run out of vaccine doses today after going three weeks without being resupplied by the state. The shortage doesn’t affect people waiting for their second doses, but it could stop the county from scheduling appointments for patients seeking the first shot. “We have the capability of administering more than 5,000 doses a week,” said Christopher Ave, spokesman for the health department. “And we’d like to use that capability. But we don’t have enough vaccine to do that.” Read more from our news partners at the Missouri Independent: St. Louis County Sounds Alarm At Dwindling COVID Vaccine Supply, Appointments May Pause.

For the first time in months, COVID-19 patients are taking up fewer than 10% of hospital beds in the St. Louis area. Hospitals say they’re seeing fewer coronavirus patients and have significantly more ICU capacity than during the peak in December. The decline is “really good news,” says Dr. Alex Garza, commander of the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force. Read more from our news partners at 5 on Your Side: Task Force Reports 'really Good News' As COVID-19 Patients Take Up Fewer Than 10% Of Hospital Beds.

St. Clair County has added large heaters to its mass vaccination site at Belle-Clair Fairgrounds to keep the shots going despite the ice and snow. The weather is a challenge, but so is the vaccine supply: St. Clair County says it could run out of vaccine doses this week unless the state sends a new shipment. Read more from our news partners at the Belleville News-Democrat: How Will Severe Weather This Week Affect COVID Vaccinations In St. Clair County?

How is the coronavirus trending locally? Here are the key takeaways:

  • Cases are decreasing in the St. Louis region. The metro area has seen about 705 new coronavases cases per day over the past week. That's down 17% over last week, according to data gathered by the New York Times.
  • In the past week, 189 people in the St. Louis region have died of COVID-19.
  • Since March, there have been 242,012 total cases and 4,139 total deaths in the metro area.
  • Missouri is processing an average of 10,823 tests per day over the past week, and 6% of those have been positive. Illinois is processing an average of 74,620 tests per day over the past week, and 3% of those have been positive.
  • Check out our data dashboard for more.

— Lindsay Toler

5 p.m. Monday, Feb. 8

St. Louis County vaccinated more than 5,000 people last week, double the previous week. In total, the Department of Public Health has given more than 10,000 first doses and 700 second doses.

The department has a goal of vaccinating 5,000 people per week, as long as the supply is sufficient. So far, 281,000 people have pre-registered for the vaccine with St. Louis County.

St. Louis Community College will resume some in-person teaching later this month. The school is allowing students to choose to attend hybrid or all in-person classes beginning Feb. 16.

The college expects fewer than 1,000 students on each of its four campuses on a given day. They’ll have to wear masks and complete a health screening.

Missouri has launched a new website with the goal of helping people register for a COVID-19 vaccination. Missouri Vaccine Navigator is designed to help people determine their eligibility based on the various priority phases, and then be notified when their group is included.

The site will also help people find a health provider or mass vaccination site to receive their shots, and remind people when it is time to receive their second dose.

Fort Leonard Wood is easing its coronavirus restrictions. The new order that went into effect Monday includes lifting travel restrictions on people permanently stationed at the post, and allowing soldiers to dine in at restaurants on base. Personal service establishments such as barber shops, nail salons, gyms and tanning salons are also now open, provided masks are worn.

Restrictions still in place include mandatory face coverings on post, and bars and clubs are off-limits until March 15.

Ryan Delaney, Shahla Farzan and Jonathan Ahl

9:00 a.m. Monday, Feb. 8

Good morning. Missouri has reported its first case of a resident infected with the coronavirus variant known as B.1.1.7. The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services reports an adult living in Marion County tested positive for the more-contagious variant, which was first found in the United Kingdom five months ago. Missouri joins 32 other states that have reported cases of the variant virus to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Inmates held a protest at St. Louis’ downtown jail on Saturday — the third protest at the justice center since late December, though the first to turn destructive. One guard was hurt. City officials deny that COVID-19 was a major factor in the uprising, but jail reform advocates disagree. Inmates have recently protested a lack of protective equipment against the coronavirus. Since the pandemic began, inmates haven’t been allowed to see visitors, and many court hearings have been canceled or delayed. Read more from reporter Ryan Delaney: St. Louis Justice Center Protest Could Change The Conversation On Workhouse’s Closure.

“I have said, over and over, if anybody is trying to charge you for the vaccine, you better run, not walk, away.” That’s a quote from Dr. Ngozi Ezike, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, who addressed concerns from Metro East residents about financial barriers to the coronavirus vaccine last week. “All of these vaccines were given completely free of charge to the state of Illinois. We are passing it on to local health departments and pharmacies and hospitals with no charge. No one is supposed to have any bill or fee or charge associated with. Insurance or no insurance, documented or not documented.” Read more from Ezike’s conversation with residents in the Belleville News-Democrat: Illinois Health Director Seeks to Reassure East St. Louis Residents About COVID Vaccine.

How is the coronavirus trending locally? Here are the key takeaways:

  • Coronavirus cases are decreasing in the St. Louis region. The metro area has seen about 715 new cases per day over the last week. That's down 22% over last week, according to data gathered by the New York Times.
  • In the last week, 183 people in the St. Louis region have died of COVID-19.
  • Since March, there have been 241,552 total cases and 4,123 total deaths in the metro area.
  • Missouri is processing an average of 10,606 tests per day over the last week, and 7% of those have been positive. Illinois is processing an average of 76,576 tests per day over the last week, and 3% of those have been positive.
  • Check out our data dashboard for more.

— Lindsay Toler

5:10 p.m. Friday, Feb. 5

St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson sent a letter to Missouri Gov. Mike Parson on Friday asking for CVS and Walgreens pharmacies to be approved as coronavirus vaccination sites for a new federal program.

This comes after the state health director, Dr. Randall Williams, announced Thursday that the program is utilizing Walmart and Health Mart pharmacies to distribute more vaccine throughout states. Krewson said there are currently no Walmart pharmacies and only three Health Mart pharmacies in St. Louis.

“This number of approved pharmacies is insufficient to meet the needs of our residents and increases the vulnerability of the City of St. Louis to prolonged consequences of COVID-19,” the letter read.

Belleville city offices will reopen on Monday. A notice on the city website says all city council, committee and commission meetings will remain virtual until further notice.

— Jaclyn Driscoll

9 a.m. Friday, Feb. 5

Good morning, and happy Friday.

Rollout of the coronavirus vaccine has been rocky, especially in Missouri, which has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the country. Clinics, hospitals and health departments are competing against each other for meager and irregular shipments. Systems for registering and making appointments are disjointed and favor those with time and who are tech-savvy. Experts say that while the federal government helped companies develop the vaccines, it hasn't focused as much effort on distributing them. Read more from reporter Sarah Fentem: Federal, State Bottlenecks Behind Missouri's Slow Coronavirus Vaccine Rollout.

For some who are eligible for the coronavirus vaccine, lack of transportation has been a major obstacle to getting to appointments. Southside Wellness Center organized buses to bring in more than 100 seniors from around the city for a recent vaccine clinic. Health officials say similar efforts could help many vulnerable people, especially older adults. Read more fom reporter Kayla Drake: St. Louis-Area Seniors Need Transportation To Vaccination Sites.

Israel is the first country in the world to vaccinate enough people to see a measurable impact on its coronavirus outbreak, giving the rest of the world an early glimpse of what may be in store. The number of hospitalizations and confirmed infections has dropped for people over 60, the first group to get vaccinated. More than a third of Israelis have received at least one shot, and the country is on track to inoculate the entire adult population by next month. Read more from the AP: Israel, A Global Leader In COVID Vaccinations, Finds Limits.

How is the coronavirus trending locally? Here are the key takeaways:

  • Cases are decreasing in the St. Louis region. The metro area has seen about 732 new coronavirus cases per day over the past week. That's down 33% over last week, according to data gathered by the New York Times.
  • In the past week, 184 people in the St. Louis region have died of COVID-19.
  • Since March, there have been 239,704 total cases and 4,095 total deaths in the metro area.
  • Missouri is processing an average of 8,722 tests per day over the past week, 8% of which have been positive. Illinois is processing an average of 73,577 tests per day over the past week, 3% of which have been positive.
  • Check out our data dashboard for more.

— Lindsay Toler

5 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 4

Good evening.

The St. Louis County Police Department has reached its 200th confirmed COVID-19 case. According to the department, six employees tested positive in the past eight days. It’s unclear how they contracted the virus. The news comes as Affinia Healthcare has begun vaccinating St. Louis County law enforcement in partnership with the St. Louis County Prosecutor’s Office. Affinia Healthcare says that first responders interested in getting the COVID-19 vaccine should call 314-814-8700.

St. Louis County Executive Sam Page announced Sunday an effort between the St. Louis County Health Department and SSM Health to vaccinate as many as 4,000 first responders, many of them police officers. In a statement, St. Louis County Police Chief Mary Barton said she was “thankful” that many in the department have been able to get vaccinated.

The Illinois Department of Public Health announced Thursday it is rolling back more coronavirus restrictions in the Metro East. Indoor dining capacity limits increase under the relaxed rules, with restaurants and bars allowed to accept parties of up to 10 people for indoor service. Some indoor recreation facilities, like bowling alleys and skating rinks, can reopen too.

State public health region 4, which includes the Metro East, was the last one in the state to see rules from last November fully relaxed. Public health officials say they’ll reimpose stronger restrictions if ICU bed availability drops and test positivity and hospitalizations from COVID-19 increase.

Mass COVID vaccination events have begun in the Rolla area. Thursday was the first of five days of vaccinations at a drive-thru clinic by Phelps Health in Rolla. Missouri National Guard members are on hand to organize the distribution of the Moderna vaccine to those who pre-registered.

Fort Leonard Wood is also holding a mass vaccination event Friday and Saturday to distribute the Pfizer vaccine to Fort Leonard Wood service members, Department of Defense civilians, contractors and beneficiaries on the Department of Defense health care program.

A new federal program is partnering with Walmart and HealthMart pharmacies to get more vaccines distributed to states.

Dr. Randall Williams, the director of the Missouri public health department, said he does not yet know how many pharmacies will be chosen in the state, but a list will be released Monday.

“(These vaccines) do not come from our allotment,” Williams said. “That comes straight from the federal government; it’s a federal program to try to reach underserved areas.”

Williams said the vaccines will be available to eligible Missourians on Feb. 11.

Marissanne Lewis-Thompson, Eric Schmid, Jonathan Ahl and Jaclyn Driscoll

9 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 4

Good morning. More Missourians than ever voted absentee last year when lawmakers made it easier because of COVID-19. But those changes went away in 2021. It’s highly unlikely that a no-excuse absentee system will emerge before St. Louis residents vote in March and April. Lawmakers are working on plans that would expand that possibility, but whether it actually makes it to the legislative finish line is an open question. Read more about how early voting in this year’s elections will be different: St. Louis Prepares For Election With Scaled-Down Absentee Ballot Options.

Public health officials are recommending that Americans upgrade from basic cloth masks as new and more contagious strains of the coronavirus are spreading. The best choice is a medical-grade N95 respirator — so-called because it blocks out at least 95% of particles when worn correctly — but even now, N95s remain in short supply for consumers. Here are tips from NPR about how to improve your mask safety: 5 Hacks And Tips To Make Your Face Mask More Protective.

How is the coronavirus trending locally? Here are the key takeaways:

  • Cases are decreasing in the St. Louis region. The metro area has seen about 820 new coronavirus cases per day over the past week. That's down 23.6% over last week, according to data gathered by the New York Times.
  • In the past week, 198 people in the St. Louis region have died of COVID-19.
  • Since March, there have been 238,956 total cases and 4,084 total deaths in the metro area.
  • Missouri is processing an average of 8,129 tests per day over the past week, and 9% of those have been positive. Illinois is processing an average of 74,969 tests per day over the past week, and 3% of those have been positive.
  • Check out our data dashboard for more.

— Lindsay Toler

4:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 3

Good evening.

Missouri has crossed 7,000 coronavirus deaths, according to a tally from the Associated Press. The milestone comes even as the state continues to see declines in newly confirmed cases of the virus.

St. Louis County’s health department has not received a new shipment of coronavirus vaccines for two weeks. And officials are unsure when the next batch will arrive. Missouri has sent the county about 5,400 doses so far. A local hospital provided 3,900 doses yesterday, which allowed the county to open its first mass vaccination site this morning in Ferguson. The county health department says it will begin using firehouses in south county tomorrow to deliver vaccine doses.

St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson also lamented Wednesday the trickle of supply from the state. “Right now, we don’t have any doses,” she said. But she said the state has guaranteed her in writing that there will be enough supply to give a second dose to those who've received the first vaccine shot from the city.

Finally, a newspaper piece we thought you’d enjoy: A long, long-running musical tradition in the Ozarks is under threat. Since the pandemic began, fiddlers, guitar players and their fans haven’t been able to squeeze into a general store in McClurg for a “mountain music” potluck known as the McClurg Jam. The younger musicians in the group are in their mid-70s, while at least one is 90. Jennifer Moore — who also happens to be the news director at KSMU public radio in Springfield, Mo. — wrote about the jam and its history for the New York Times.

We hope you’re humming a happy tune tonight.

— Ryan Delaney

9 a.m. Wednesday, Feb. 3

Good morning. Today is the opening of the first mass vaccination clinic in St. Louis County. But county officials say it’s been two weeks since they received supplies of vaccine from the state. An unnamed “hospital partner” gave the county health department about 3,900 doses of vaccine, which made it possible to open the appointment-only mass vaccine site at St. Louis Community College’s Florissant Valley campus. Read more from 5 on Your Side: St. Louis County Says No COVID-19 Vaccine From The State In 2 Weeks.

Schools all over the world have tried different ways to keep kids learning this school year — and then tried again. KCUR and St. Louis Public Radio compared how schools are adapting to the coronavirus pandemic in Germany and Missouri. The experiences show that, in a sense, there were no good options during a global pandemic, only trial and error — and fierce determination to adapt in an unprecedented situation. Read/listen to the full story, produced with support from the Pulitzer Center, here: Closed Or Open, No Easy Answers Anywhere For Schools.

Habitat for Neighborhood Business, a St. Louis nonprofit, has helped 40 minority-owned businesses stay afloat during the pandemic. Business owner Leslie Christian-Wilson’s hair salon and boutique has lost 60% of its revenue since the pandemic began. She tells us she’s been able to keep her head above water thanks to help from the program: “I was able to persevere due to the loyal St. Louis customer base that I have aligned myself with and call my customer friends,” Christian-Wilson said. “They’re very supportive. They’re very loyal, and they want to see us succeed. They want to see us make it.” Read the full story from reporter Marissanne Lewis-Thompson: St. Louis Nonprofit Helps Minority Entrepreneurs Stay In Business During Pandemic.

NPR has a great illustrated guide that uses Legos to explain the coronavirus variants and why they’re affecting the global response to the pandemic. Check it out here: What's Going On With All These Coronavirus Variants? An Illustrated Guide.

How is the coronavirus trending locally? Here are the key takeaways:

  • Cases are decreasing in the St. Louis region. The metro area has seen about 859 new coronavirus cases per day over the past week. That's down 24% over last week, according to data gathered by the New York Times.
  • In the past week, 149 people in the St. Louis region have died of COVID-19.
  • Since March, there have been 238,220 total cases and 4,014 total deaths in the metro area.
  • Missouri is processing an average of 8,700 tests per day over the past week, and 8% of those have been positive. Illinois is processing an average of 75,430 tests per day over the past week, and 3% of those have been positive.
  • Check out our data dashboard for more.

— Lindsay Toler

5 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 2

St. Louis County’s first mass vaccination site opens to the public tomorrow on the Florissant Valley campus of St. Louis Community College. Officials chose the location to better reach residents in predominantly Black neighborhoods in north county, which have suffered greater losses from COVID-19 than predominantly white neighborhoods. Read more: Mass Vaccination Site In Ferguson Opens To Public On Wednesday.

Some St. Louisians who don’t meet eligibility requirements received COVID-19 vaccine shots at a mass vaccination event over the weekend because of a glitch in the registration process, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch has reported. The system mistakenly allowed people with a body mass index of more than 30 to register as having a qualifying condition, the city’s acting health director, Dr. Fred Echols, told a St. Louis Board of Aldermen committee Tuesday. The state says the BMI requirement should be 40 or higher because obesity counts as an underlying condition. The St. Louis Board of Aldermen is investigating the situation.

Restaurants in the Metro East may be able to soon reopen dining rooms. It all depends on whether the region’s intensive care unit bed vacancy remains at 20% or higher for the next two days. Read more: Indoor dining may be back on the menu soon as southwestern IL COVID-19 metrics improve.

St. Luke’s Hospital has opened its pre-registration vaccine form to all phases now. It previously only allowed early-priority groups to register.

— Kayla Drake

9 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 2

Good morning.

St. Louis-area hospitals are ready to speed up their coronavirus vaccine efforts, but the local rollout depends on the national supply of shots. Both Moderna and Pfizer will need to significantly increase production to meet their commitments to supply the U.S. government with 100 million doses by the end of March. Once the doses are here, hospitals across Missouri will be responsible for distributing more than half of them. Until then, “there's still not enough vaccine to go around,” said Dr. Alex Garza of the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force. Read more from 5 on Your Side: Task Force Preparing To Join State's New Vaccine Program, Warns 'There's Still Not Enough Vaccine To Go Around.'

Missouri Rep. Patricia Ashton Derges of Nixa was indicted by a federal grand jury over a fraud scheme involving false coronavirus treatments. Derges, a licensed assistant physician who was elected to the House in November 2020, is charged in a 20-count indictment with making false claims about a supposed stem cell treatment marketed through her clinics in Springfield, Ozark and Branson. Read more from the Missouri Independent: Missouri Republican Legislator Indicted For Fraud, Illegal Prescriptions.

An at-home rapid test for the coronavirus is coming to the United States. Developed by Australian company Ellume, the test uses a relatively short nasal swab to collect a sample that is analyzed in minutes through a smartphone app. The first rapid tests off the production line will go straight to U.S. government agencies, but the test will eventually be available for the public to purchase for about $30. Read more from NPR: U.S. Cuts $231 Million Deal To Provide 15-Minute COVID-19 At-Home Tests.

How is the coronavirus trending locally? Here are the key takeaways:

  • Cases are decreasing in the St. Louis region. The metro area has seen about 849 new coronavirus cases per day over the past week — down 26% over last week, according to data gathered by the New York Times.
  • In the past week, 141 people in the St. Louis region have died of COVID-19.
  • Since March, there have been 237,079 total cases and 3,950 total deaths in the metro area.
  • Missouri is processing an average of 11,047 tests per day over the past week, and 8% of those have been positive. Illinois is processing an average of 78,177 tests per day over the past week, and 3% of those have been positive.
  • Check out our data dashboard for more.

— Lindsay Toler

5:45 p.m. Monday, Feb. 1

Missouri officials will send more than half of the state's COVID-19 vaccine allocation to hospitals this month.

BJC Healthcare, SSM Health, Mercy St. Louis and St. Luke’s Hospital are among the hospitals that will receive more than half of the state’s weekly allotment. The St. Louis County Health Department and Phelps Health in Rolla also will receive doses.

“The hospitals included in the first phase of this plan were selected for their ability to rapidly begin community vaccination efforts on a large scale,” said Herb B. Kuhn, Missouri Hospital Association president and CEO.

Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services and hospital association officials said they chose facilities that could distribute more than 5,000 doses per week. The amount allocated toward each facility will be based on the region’s population.

Officials say 23% of the state’s vaccine allocation will go to regional mass vaccination events.

The St. Louis Board of Aldermen will hold a special committee meeting Tuesday to discuss vaccine distribution. Officials from Mayor Lyda Krewson’s office and the city’s health department will attend. The city received 3,900 doses of the coronavirus vaccine last week. Krewson said the city vaccinated 4,498 people.

The St. Louis Metropolitan Task Force reported 59 new hospital admissions, with a seven-day moving average of 63. Task force officials said 496 people are hospitalized with the coronavirus in the region, with 101 in intensive care and 75 on ventilators.

Dr. Alex Garza, who heads the task force, said those numbers are trending downward. He said it has been three months since hospitalizations were last below 500. But Garza said the number of people in the hospital is still high, especially given that the vaccination effort is underway.

“In the near term, we’re still limited on the amount of vaccine that we’re going to be having available for the population,” Garza said. “That means that we still have to prioritize to those who are most at risk for poor outcomes from being infected.”

The Madison County Health Department has updated its website with information on the county’s COVID-19 response. The county plans to launch a coronavirus online appointment scheduler next week for people in the 1B phase to receive the vaccine. The county also will provide a phone number for people to schedule appointments who don’t have internet access.

— Chad Davis

9 a.m. Monday, Feb. 1

Good morning. Are you scheduled to get a coronavirus vaccination in Belleville today? If so, you should know a computer error caused mistaken cancellation messages to go out to people with appointments. COVID-19 vaccine appointments at the Belle-Clair Fairgrounds & Expo Center have not been canceled, despite the notification that says otherwise. "If you were scheduled for an appointment tomorrow please SHOW UP AS SCHEDULED at your required time," the St. Clair County Emergency Management Agency said Sunday on Facebook.

The mass drive-thru vaccination site opens Monday and is by appointment only. It will run every Monday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Residents who need help signing up for a vaccine notification or have transportation issues can call the dedicated call center at 618-825-4447 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays. Read more from 5 on Your Side: Metro East Residents Mistakenly Told Their Vaccine Appointments Were Canceled.

The City of St. Louis received its first 3,900 doses of the Pfizer vaccine last week and held vaccination clinics for its police officers, firefighters and ambulance crews over the weekend. Dr. Fred Echols, the city's health director, said the city is not holding any supply in reserve for second shots, and he is confident the city will be able to get enough vaccine for those doses. Read more from reporter Rachel Lippmann: Missouri Governments Look For As Many Pipelines As Possible To Vaccinate Their First Responders.

Expect to see more large-scale vaccination clinics in the coming weeks. St. Louis officials have said they’ll open more as soon as more vaccine doses arrive. And the Missouri National Guard staffed nine mass vaccination clinics across the state on Friday as part of an effort to inoculate about 18,000 people.

Some good news: On Sunday, the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force reported 56 COVID-19 admissions, the lowest number of admissions since Nov. 2. As of Sunday, there were 490 confirmed COVID-19 patients in task force hospitals, the lowest since Nov. 5. Read more from 5 on Your Side: Large Vaccination Clinics Held In St. Louis And Across MO As State Reports 0 New COVID-19 Deaths.

Restaurants, bars and banquet centers in St. Louis County can stay open until 11 p.m. beginning today. St. Louis County Executive Sam Page announced that he’s able to extend the curfew because proper health measures are in place. “Our restaurant owners say this will significantly increase the reservation capacity and make it easier for them to recover from this pandemic,” Page said. Read more from reporter Andrea Henderson: St. Louis County Relaxes Curfew For Restaurants, Bars And Banquet Centers.

How is the coronavirus trending locally? Here are the key takeaways:

  • Cases are decreasing in the St. Louis region. The metro area has seen about 894 new coronavirus cases per day over the last week, down 21% over last week, according to data gathered by the New York Times.
  • In the past week, 140 people in the St. Louis region have died of COVID-19.
  • Since March, there have been 236,379 total cases and 3,940 total deaths in the metro area.
  • Missouri is processing an average of 11,047 tests per day over the past week, and 8% of those have been positive. Illinois is processing an average of 79,323 tests per day over the past week, and almost 4% of those have been positive.
  • Check out our data dashboard for more.

— Lindsay Toler

4:50 p.m. Friday, Jan. 29

St. Louis County Executive Sam Page formed an outreach group to encourage residents of north St. Louis County to receive the coronavirus vaccine. The rate of vaccine pre-registration is as low as 3% in parts of the predominantly Black region. Many Black people don't trust the health care system because of the way it has long mistreated African Americans. Bishop Lawrence Wooten Sr. of the Williams Temple Church of God in Christ, in the Kingsway West neighborhood, will chair the 19-member group.

U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley has asked state Department of Health and Senior Services Director Randall Williams to give him a briefing on the state’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout.

In a letter to Williams, the Missouri Republican wrote that a number of constituents contacted his office with “concerns and confusion related to the state’s vaccination plan.” Missouri has ranked last in the nation in administering the vaccine.

“My staff and I have been tracking the virus numbers daily, and I have spoken with hospital and health leaders across the state on a regular basis,” Hawley wrote. “I know that our staffs have also spoken multiple times about vaccine distribution. Given the latest developments, I would like to request a further briefing from you regarding Missouri’s administration of the COVID-19 vaccines.”

Department of Health and Senior Services spokeswoman Lisa Cox said Williams is scheduling a call with Hawley. She added Williams is “eager to discuss Missouri’s plan, as well as to request of the federal government additional supplies of vaccine into our state, an acceleration of progress within the federal pharmacy partnership, and improvement of the data reporting system by the CDC to provide better clarity and accuracy to the people of Missouri.”

Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose coronavirus vaccine provided “complete protection” from hospitalization or death caused by COVID-19 in a safety trial, company officials said today. The vaccine was 66% effective in preventing moderate-to-severe symptoms of the coronavirus disease. It was 72% effective in preventing disease in the U.S., but less so in South Africa and Latin America, where new variants of the virus are spreading.

Unlike vaccines developed by Pzifer and Moderna, Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine does not require ultracold storage. The company plans to apply for emergency use authorization to distribute it.

A St. Louis Circuit Court judge extended the moratorium on residential evictions in St. Louis until March 1. Judge Michael Stelzer issued the order. The moratorium was due to expire Jan. 31. There are exceptions, including for tenants who engage in criminal behavior on the property.

The St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force reported there were 60 coronavirus-positive patients admitted to area hospitals Wednesday and a rolling seven-day average of 69. There were an additional 44 patients hospitalized who doctors suspect have the virus but who haven’t yet received test results.

There are 532 COVID-19 patients in task force hospitals and a rolling seven-day average of 569. Ninety-one patients were discharged from hospital stays.

Dr. Alex Garza, the task force leader, said although key indicators of virus spread are trending downward, the region remains at risk. “It’s not the time now to relax on any of the mitigation strategies that we have. If anything, it’s time to double down on those,” Garza said.

False reports about clinics offering walk-up vaccine service are spreading on social media, Garza said. All COVID-19 vaccines in the region are administered by appointment only.

A group of Democratic lawmakers from the Metro East sent a letter to Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker asking him to ease coronavirus restrictions in the area, the Belleville News-Democrat reports. They argue that southwestern Illinois should see a lessening of virus-mitigation rules because people in the area have access to St. Louis hospitals. Southwestern Illinois has the strictest coronavirus regulations in the state.

— Jeremy D. Goodwin, Jason Rosenbaum and Eric Schmid

9 a.m. Friday, Jan. 29

Good morning. Ferguson Mayor Ella Jones received her first dose of coronavirus vaccine yesterday at Christian Northeast Hospital: “If you want to live a good quality life, get vaccinated,” she said. The Ferguson Fire Department is helping to spread accurate information about the vaccine in north St. Louis County, where fewer people have pre-registered for the shot. Read more from 5 On Your Side: Leading From The Front: Ferguson Mayor Gets COVID-19 Vaccine.

Schools are trying new tactics to build up the number of substitute teachers, which was already low before the pandemic. Increased recruitment, pay incentives and easing of certification requirements have helped to shore up reserves, but the shortage remains. Hancock Place School District is experimenting with teleworking for instructional staff: Full-time teachers on home quarantine are now video-calling into their classrooms to give instructions while a substitute teacher acts as more of a chaperone. “Prior to COVID-19, there was really no availability for a teacher to be at home and still engage kids,” said Hancock Place Superintendent Kevin Carl. Read more about how schools are managing from education reporter Ryan Delaney: Substitute Teacher Availability Better, But Still Tenuous As More Schools Reopen.

How is the coronavirus trending locally? Here are the key takeaways:

  • Cases are decreasing in the St. Louis region. The metro area has seen about 1,099 new coronavirus cases per day over the past week. That's down 5.7% over last week, according to data gathered by the New York Times.
  • In the past week, 148 people in the St. Louis region have died of COVID-19.
  • Since March, there have been 234,527 total cases and 3,911 total deaths in the metro area.
  • Missouri is processing an average of 10,038 tests per day over the past week, and 9% of those have been positive. Illinois is processing an average of 74,864 tests per day over the past week, and 4% of those have been positive.
  • Check out our data dashboard for more.

— Lindsay Toler

5:45 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 28

The latest numbers from the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force show there were 66 new COVID-19 admissions to local hospitals. That’s a steep decline from points in December, when around 150 people were admitted to task force-connected hospitals.

The task force reported there were 14 deaths due to COVID-19. The seven-day moving average is 11 deaths.

There are currently 550 people in area hospitals who have COVID-19. Roughly 119 of those patients are in ICUs and 82 are using ventilators. On Wednesday, 108 people were discharged from area hospitals.

The Belleville News-Democrat is reporting that high school boys and girls basketball can resume next week in some regions of Illinois. But basketball cannot resume in the Metro East because that area doesn’t meet the statistical benchmarks state health officials say would create a lower risk for the virus.

Illinois is one of the last states to resume basketball this year. The Illinois High School Sports Association postponed the season in November because of concerns over the virus.

St. Louis County is providing more than $3 million to three organizations to handle food relief efforts.

St. Louis County Executive Sam Page’s office announced that $1.435 million is going to Operation Food Search, $925,000 to the Urban League and $800,000 to the St. Louis Area Food Bank. The money is coming from federal coronavirus funds.

St. Louis County has allocated about $9.7 million to food distribution efforts throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

— Jason Rosenbaum

9:00 a.m. Thursday, Jan. 28

Good morning, and here’s some good news: Nearly all the data points tracked by the St. Louis Metropolitan Task Force have started trending down. For example, the average number of people hospitalized per week decreased yesterday for the 19th consecutive day. And for the first time since November, there are fewer than 600 people being hospitalized per week. Read more from 5 on your Side: 7-day Average COVID-19 Hospitalizations Fall In St. Louis Area For 19th Day In A Row.

Missouri lawmakers say it was an honest mistake that led some of them to receive vaccine doses yesterday at a Jefferson City vaccination event meant for other state employees. Cody Leibbrand, a maintenance worker with MoDOT who was there to receive the vaccine, said that while everyone needs it, essential workers should be prioritized: “We’re the ones out having to deal with the general public. And we’re out and about every day, all day long. We get exposed more than most.” Read the full story from the Missouri Independent: Missouri Legislators, Staff Receive COVID Vaccine Intended For Other State Employees.

How do you run a music venue in a pandemic? Owners of St. Louis venues say without booking regular shows, they are struggling even when they get federal help to help cover payroll costs: “It was relatively useless,” says Tim Weber, owner of the Old Rock House, about receiving a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan of more than $86,000 last year. “PPP loans are designed to be used for payroll. When you can’t operate, it’s difficult to have payroll.” Read the full story from arts reporter Jeremy Goodwin: Owners Of St. Louis Music Venues Try Different Tactics To Survive In A Pandemic.

How is the coronavirus trending locally? Here are the key takeaways:

  • Coronavirus cases are decreasing in the St. Louis region. The metro area has seen about 1,073 new cases per day over the last week. That's down 11.2 percent over last week, according to data gathered by the New York Times.
  • In the last week, 151 people in the St. Louis region have died of COVID-19.
  • Since March, there have been 233,216 total cases and 3,886 total deaths in the metro area.
  • Missouri is processing an average of 9,361 tests per day over the last week, and 9% of those have been positive. Illinois is processing an average of 78,537 tests per day over the last week, and 4% of those have been positive.
  • Check out our data dashboard for more.

— Lindsay Toler

5 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 27

St. Louis County plans to vaccinate up to 4,000 first responders starting Monday. The county is partnering with SSM Health St. Louis University Hospital and the St. Louis Metropolitan Task Force to administer vaccine doses to those who work at police and fire departments throughout the region, including in St. Louis.

Ferguson will host the first mass COVID-19 vaccination site in St. Louis County. The clinic will be located on the Florissant Valley campus of St. Louis Community College, County Executive Sam Page announced Wednesday morning. He said the clinic plans to vaccinate several hundred residents per day starting next week. Read more from reporter Shahla Farzan: Ferguson Will Host First Mass COVID Vaccination Site In St. Louis County.

Meanwhile, the City of St. Louis has not yet announced any mass vaccination sites. Mayor Lyda Krewson said Wednesday that city officials are working on the logistics.

The St. Louis Health Department on Tuesday received its first shipment of 3,900 vaccine doses from the state. Krewson said the city plans to begin vaccinating first responders later this week. She said that number doesn’t include second doses, but she’s optimistic the city will obtain more vaccinesin the next few weeks.

More fans can watch the Blues in person. Enterprise Center will increase game attendance to 1,400 starting on Tuesday, when the Blues play the Arizona Coyotes.

Feel-good moment of the day: It’s snowing, and the St. Louis Zoo penguins love it! Zoo staff took the king penguins on a frosty field trip, capturing their wintery waddling on Twitter.

— Corinne Ruff

9 a.m. Wednesday, Jan. 27

Good morning. Missouri has given the first dose of coronavirus vaccine to about 4% of its 6 million residents — the lowest percentage of all 50 states. At that pace, Missouri won’t fully vaccinate its population for years. The slow vaccine rollout is especially worrisome because several coronavirus variants have emerged around the world: “If we don’t have the broad swaths of the community immunized, [the new variant] is going to take hold, and we’re going to be right back to the beginning of 2020,” said Tim Wiemken, an associate professor of infectious diseases at St. Louis University. Read more from health reporter Sarah Fentem: Missouri Ranks Last In Coronavirus Vaccinations.

It will be months before most Illinois residents start getting vaccinated. On Monday, the state expanded who’s eligible for the vaccine to include people over 65, first responders, transit workers, postal workers and a slew of other front-line workers. Dr. Ngozi Ezike, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, implored people who are newly eligible for the coronavirus vaccine to remain patient as they wait: “Yes, it’s your turn. But it may not be this week, next week, next month, even another month. And that’s for people who are, quote, prioritized.” Read more from reporter Eric Schmid: Illinois Vaccine Rollout Will Remain Slow For Now.

Missouri state officials have prioritized prison staff and certain high-risk inmates for receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. The majority of Missouri’s 16,000 inmates won’t be eligible until the last stage of the rollout, when the vaccine is available to the public. So far, roughly 5,200 inmates who are high risk have indicated they want to be vaccinated, a DOC spokesperson said by email. Read more from reporter Shahla Farzan: Missouri Prison Staff Offered COVID Vaccine Soon, But Most Inmates Have To Wait.

People who lack computer skills or have limited internet access can have a challenging time pre-registering for the vaccine. Health departments and hospital systems are relying heavily on online forms. Hospitals haven't set up vaccine telephone hotlines yet. Read more from reporter Kayla Drake: Poor Internet Access Among Barriers For Elderly St. Louisans Seeking COVID Vaccine.

How is the coronavirus trending locally? Here are the key takeaways:

  • Cases are decreasing in the St. Louis region. The metro area has seen about 1,139 new coronavirus cases per day over the past week. That's down 4.5% over last week, according to data gathered by the New York Times.
  • In the past week, 201 people in the St. Louis region have died of COVID-19.
  • Since March, there have been 232,210 total cases and 3,865 total deaths in the metro area.
  • Missouri is processing an average of 10,168 tests per day over the past week, and 9% of those have been positive. Illinois is processing an average of 81,239 tests per day over the past week, and 4% of those have been positive.
  • Check out our data dashboard for more.

— Lindsay Toler

5:15 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 26

Illinois residents can be vaccinated for COVID-19 at pharmacies across the state, health officials announced Tuesday. Eligible residents, including teachers, postal workers, those over 65 and others, can schedule a vaccination at Hy-Vee, Walgreens or Jewel-Osco pharmacies once the stores receive vaccines. There are two Walgreens locations in the Metro East, and many local health departments across the state are also distributing the vaccine.

A mass vaccination site in St. Clair County may be delayed in opening because of inadequate vaccine supply and staff availability. County Board Chair Mark Kern said Tuesday that the site at the Belle-Clair Fairgrounds won’t start administering vaccinations until the Illinois Department of Public Health says how many doses and National Guard members will be available to the county. It was slated to open Feb. 1.

Thirteen more members of the St. Louis County Police Department tested positive for the coronavirus, the department announced Tuesday. The department said it did not know where these staff members contracted the virus. Since the pandemic hit the region last March, 193 county officers have been stricken with the virus.

Eric Schmid

9:10 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 26

Good morning, and here’s an important message from vaccine distribution sites: Please don’t share your vaccine scheduling link with friends and family who aren’t yet eligible to make their own appointments. Mercy emailed high-risk patients a link to a calendar where they could sign up for vaccine appointments, but when people started forwarding the email to loved ones, appointments filled before eligible people could sign up. The booking system is now full until Mercy receives more vaccines. Read more from 5 on your Side: Here's Why You Shouldn't Share Links For COVID-19 Vaccine Appointments.

Health officials say they’re not surprised Missouri ranks last among U.S. states when it comes to vaccine rollout: "I would have been shocked if we were doing better," said Dr. Kendra Holmes. "I am on the front lines and I see how the distribution is going." All states have struggled with the slow supply of shots, but Missouri is also weighed down by lack of logistics and organization. "Frankly, my understanding is that Missouri has received its share of the vaccine. We really do need to demand of our lawmakers and officials that it is time to do this better,” says Dr. Michael Kinch, a vice chancellor at Washington University’s Institute for Public Health. Read more from 5 on your Side: St. Louis Experts Weigh In On Why Missouri And Illinois Rank Near Bottom Of COVID-19 Vaccinations.

— Lindsay Toler

5:15 p.m. Monday, Jan. 25

More than 318,000 people have pre-registered to receive the coronavirus vaccine in St. Louis County. That number likely includes some residents of other counties and people who are pre-registered in more than one place.

Supply continues to fall well short of demand. St. Louis County has received two shipments of vaccines from the state, and over 2,400 vaccines have been administered.

The City of St. Louis held two vaccination events over the weekend. One focused on first responders, giving the first dose to 440 people. The second, at Affina Healthcare, gave 300 people 65 and older their first dose.

Mayor Lyda Krewson said she expects the city to receive another shipment Tuesday of about 3,900 doses, which will be for first responders.

The St. Louis Metropolitan Task Force has updated its modeling for coronavirus spread to show a sharper rate of decline. Dr. Alex Garza, task force director, said that’s due to the decrease in hospitalizations in recent weeks. But he also said that even with the vaccine distribution underway, there is reason for concern to balance any optimism.

“We still have a lot of sick people in the hospital. Even though we have come down from that high of more than 900 patients to below 600, it’s still a lot of patients with COVID,” Garza said during his daily briefing Monday. “We still have a long way to go.”

The St. Louis Cardinals are moving forward with selling tickets to their spring training games in Jupiter, Florida, though there will be significant restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic.

There will be no season tickets available, and single-game tickets will be available in groups of two, four or six that are spread out among the stadium to keep groups six feet apart.

Tickets go on sale for current season ticket holders on Feb. 1 and to the general public Feb. 15. The first game is scheduled for Feb. 28. Teams that train in Arizona have already asked Major League Baseball to delay the start of spring training.

— Jonathan Ahl and Rachel Lippmann

9 a.m. Monday, Jan. 25

Good morning. Doctors say it’s only a matter of time before they find a highly transmissible coronavirus variant in Missouri. Since it was first identified in the United Kingdom last year, the more contagious virus mutation has been found in 20 U.S. states, including Illinois. Missouri is sending coronavirus test samples to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to test for mutations. Read more from health reporter Sarah Fentem: More Contagious Coronavirus Variant On Its Way To St. Louis.

Hundreds of thousands of people have pre-registered for the coronavirus vaccine, but the numbers are significantly lower in predominantly Black north St. Louis County neighborhoods. Less than 5% of the population in ZIP codes that include Wellston, Berkeley, Jennings and other north county areas have signed up, according to St. Louis County data. By comparison, more than 30% of the population has pre-registered in some west St. Louis County ZIP codes, including Ladue, Chesterfield and Creve Coeur. Read more from reporter Corinne Ruff: St. Louis County Starts Push to Ensure Black Residents Get Coronavirus Vaccine.

Missouri has the lowest vaccination rate of any state in the U.S., according to an analysis by the New York Times. Only 4% of Missouri residents have received their first shots; compare that to West Virginia and Alaska, where more than 9% of residents have. Find data for all states via the New York Times: See How the Vaccine Rollout Is Going in Your State.

How is the coronavirus trending locally? Here are the key takeaways:

  • Cases are decreasing in the St. Louis region. The metro area has seen about 1,153 new coronavirus cases per day over the past week. That's down 14.6% over last week, according to data gathered by the New York Times.
  • In the past week, 149 people in the St. Louis region have died of COVID-19.
  • Since March, there have been 229,333 total cases and 3,797 total deaths in the metro area.
  • Missouri is processing an average of 10,527 tests per day over the past week, and 10% of those have been positive. Illinois is processing an average of 79,386 tests per day over the past week, and 5% of those have been positive.
  • Check out our data dashboard for more.

— Lindsay Toler

5:05 p.m. Friday, Jan. 22

A Missouri state senator has tested positive for the coronavirus after being in the Capitol among colleagues all week.

Sen. Andrew Koenig, R-Manchester, who has been a vocal opponent of COVID-19 restrictions, confirmed he is isolating after a positive test.

“Fortunately, I am experiencing mild symptoms,” Koenig said, adding, “I will be quarantining at home for the next 10 days.”

The Senate is scheduled to keep working next week, as is the House after taking a week off due to a coronavirus outbreak. Gov. Mike Parson is scheduled to deliver his State of the State address on Wednesday in a joint session.

The St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force said in a press briefing on Friday that about 63% of health care employees have received their first dose of the coronavirus vaccine.

“Close to 100,000 doses of vaccine have been distributed to front-line health care workers across the metropolitan area,” said Dr. Alex Garza.

Garza said the biggest issue the area is facing related to the vaccine is having enough supply. He said it’s difficult to schedule vaccinations or have mass vaccination events when the future supply is uncertain.

— Jaclyn Driscoll

9 a.m. Friday, Jan. 22

Good morning, and happy Friday. Medical workers say they’re optimistic about the Biden administration’s plan to complete 100 million vaccinations in the president’s first 100 days of office: “It’s a good breath of fresh air,” said Matt Broom, chief medical officer at SSM Health SLU Hospital. The biggest challenge is vaccine supply, which has been unpredictable. Read more from our news partners at 5 on your Side: Local Health Leaders React To President Biden's Nationwide COVID-19 Plan.

Doctors are slowly making progress toward understanding the drugs used to treat coronavirus patients. As more data comes in, guidelines have evolved; for example, medical panels say the antimalaria drug hydroxychloroquine should be avoided. To see a scorecard on COVID-19 drugs, read the updated treatment guidelines from the National Institutes of Health and the Infectious Diseases Society of America. Read more from NPR: After A Year Battling COVID-19, Drug Treatments Get A Mixed Report Card.

How is the coronavirus trending locally? Here are the key takeaways:

  • Cases are decreasing in the St. Louis region. The metro area has seen about 1,165 new coronavirus cases per day over the past week. That's down 27% over last week, according to data gathered by the New York Times.
  • In the past week, 170 people in the St. Louis region have died of COVID-19.
  • Since March, there have been 226,836 total cases and 3,763 total deaths in the metro area.
  • Missouri is processing an average of 10,007 tests per day over the past week, and 11% of those have been positive. Illinois is processing an average of 74,130 tests per day over the past week, and 5% of those have been positive.
  • Check out our data dashboard for more.

— Lindsay Toler

4:15 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 21

Good evening. Missouri is vaccinating residents at one of the slowest paces in the nation, according to the Centers for Disease Control. On a per capita number, Missouri has administered 3,983 doses per 100,000 people. That’s the 8th-slowest pace for states and Washington D.C. Gov. Mike Parson has argued manual entering of vaccine data by some pharmacies is slowing reporting and deflating the figure.

Jefferson County extended its mask ordinance for another month. The county’s board of health extended a mask ordinance today until February 25. Masks must be worn in public places.

The ordinance first went into effect in late November after a heated public debate.
The county remains in “red status” for the level of coronavirus spread in the community.

Tough COVID restrictions in the Metro East remain in place. The Illinois Department of Public Health announced today it would lift coronavirus restrictions in more areas of the state, but not in Region Four, which includes the Metro East.

Southwest Illinois’ Region Four is the only one of Illinois eleven public health districts where the new rules that first went into effect in November have not yet been lifted.

Wheelhouse and Start Bar, two downtown establishments, have been ordered closed for a year. They’ve been the scorn of the St. Louis health department for repeatedly violating pandemic mitigation, masks and occupancy limits. Both bars are owned by Jeff Ater, who received the closure order this morning, according to Five On Your Side. The bars were ordered closed twice last year for violations.

The hospital at Fort Leonard Wood is scheduling appointments for veterans over the age of 75 to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. The General Leonard Wood Army Community Hospital has limited doses of the Pfizer vaccine and is limiting the registration to veterans who already get care at the hospital.

Fort Leonard Wood started vaccinating frontline healthcare workers 10 days ago and is following the Department of Defense’s protocols on administering the shots, which are similar to the CDC’s guidelines used for civilians.

— Ryan Delaney & Jonathan Ahl

9 a.m. Thursday, Jan. 21

Good morning, and here’s some good news: Researchers say the winter wave of coronavirus infections in the U.S. appears to finally have peaked. The number of new daily infections has been steadily declining in most states, including Missouri and Illinois. Experts expect a decline in daily deaths to follow. "Based on current trends, the worst appears to be over," says Caitlin Rivers, an epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. "We are headed to a better place." Read more from NPR: The Current, Deadly U.S. Coronavirus Surge Has Peaked, Researchers Say.

St. Louis-area hospitals are struggling with unpredictable supplies of the coronavirus vaccine from the state. Federal officials tell states how many vaccine doses they will receive, and states send them out to health care providers — but that number can vary by thousands of doses each week. Dr. Alex Garza, head of the St. Louis Metropolitan Task Force, compared it to building a bicycle without parts: “If you had a bunch of bicycle frames, but you weren't sure how many tires you were going to get to complete the bicycle, it makes it really hard to schedule your workforce and how your production line is set up.” Read more from health reporter Sarah Fentem: St. Louis Doctors Say Irregular Coronavirus Shipments Hinder Vaccination Plans.

Missouri has activated the National Guard to help distribute the coronavirus vaccine across the state. There will be nine National Guard teams deployed throughout the state, one for each of Missouri’s Highway Patrol regions, and each team can vaccinate up to 2,500 people per day. Read more from political reporter Jaclyn Driscoll: Missouri Governor Activates National Guard To Assist In Coronavirus Vaccine Efforts.

How is the coronavirus trending locally? Here are the key takeaways:

  • Cases are decreasing in the St. Louis region. The metro area has seen about 1,186 new coronavirus cases per day over the past week. That's down 32% over last week, according to data gathered by the New York Times.
  • In the past week, 177 people in the St. Louis region have died of COVID-19.
  • Since March, there have been 225,548 total cases and 3,735 total deaths in the metro area.
  • Missouri is processing an average of 10,007 tests per day over the past week, and 11% of those have been positive. Illinois is processing an average of 75,290 tests per day over the past week, and 5% of those have been positive.
  • Check out our data dashboard for more.

— Lindsay Toler

5:55 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 20

Local health departments and hospital systems are struggling with inconsistent and unpredictable supplies of coronavirus vaccines. Both the city of St. Louis and Jefferson County are waiting to receive their first doses of the vaccines, and other departments are regularly getting about half of what they ordered.

Dr. Alex Garza, the head of the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force, said providers knew that manufacturing capability would be the biggest hurdle, but thought supply would improve faster than it has. Providers generally find out about 24 to 48 hours in advance how many doses they will receive, he said, and dose numbers are low and inconsistent, which makes mass vaccination events impossible.

Health officials in Jefferson County will vote Thursday afternoon on whether to extend a mask mandate until March 25. The mandate, which first took effect Nov. 25, applies to anyone over the age of 10 while inside most public places, though there are exceptions. County health officials say the positivity rate there is below 20% for the first time in 10 weeks.

— Rachel Lippmann

9 a.m. Wednesday, Jan. 20

Good morning. Today will be a historic day, as Joe Biden is sworn in as the 46th president of the United States. Last night, he hosted the first prominent U.S. effort to memorialize those who have died of the coronavirus: a reflecting pool ceremony with 400 lights representing the 400,000 Americans who have died. Read more from NPR: 'We Must Remember': Biden, Harris Memorialize COVID-19 Victims.

The St. Charles County Department of Public Health kicked off a vaccination effort by giving doses to health care workers and emergency personnel Tuesday. Officials expect to distribute 1,500 doses of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine through Wednesday at the Family Arena. “This is a momentous occasion for a lot of people who are working on the front lines,” St. Charles County Department of Public Health Director Demetri Cianci-Chapman said. “Preventing disease is always the principal function of public health, and this is what prevents disease.” Read more from reporter Chad Davis: St. Charles County Begins Distributing Coronavirus Vaccine At Family Arena.

Want to pre-register for the coronavirus vaccine? We made a handy list showing all the places where you can sign up to receive more information when you qualify for the shots: Here’s Where To Pre-Register For The COVID-19 Vaccine In The St. Louis Area.

How is the coronavirus trending locally? Here are the key takeaways:

  • Cases are decreasing in the St. Louis region. The metro area has seen about 1,192 new coronavirus cases per day over the past week. That's down 32% over last week, according to data gathered by the New York Times.
  • In the past week, 138 people in the St. Louis region have died of COVID-19.
  • Since March, there have been 224,237 total cases and 3,664 total deaths in the metro area.
  • Missouri is processing an average of 10,520 tests per day over the past week, and 11% of those have been positive. Illinois is processing an average of 79,849 tests per day over the past week, and 5% of those have been positive.
  • Check out our data dashboard for more.

— Lindsay Toler

5 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 19

The U.S. pandemic death toll reached a grim milestone on Tuesday — 400,000 lives lost. But there’s good news about the vaccine on the local front.

St. Louis County received a second shipment of Pfizer vaccines. The public health department plans to begin administering the 3,900 doses on Wednesday to people who have registered. You can sign up here to get on that list.

The region’s four largest health systems are coordinating vaccine distribution. BJC HealthCare, Mercy, SSM Health and St. Luke’s Hospital are all separately offering pre-registrations to people who want to be alerted when they are eligible to make a vaccine appointment. As St. Louis Public Radio’s Kayla Drake reports, public health departments are also accepting pre-registrations.

MU Health Care launched a vaccine availability tool. It will alert those in the Columbia region who sign up when they are eligible to receive the vaccine. The health care system is preparing to launch a large-scale public vaccination near the Mizzou football stadium.

The Illinois Federation of Teachers released an interactive tool to track COVID-19 health and safety concerns. It also features a dashboard showing school-related outbreaks. The goal is to provide unions and communities with more information about how the virus is spreading.

— Corinne Ruff

9 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 19

Good morning. Public health departments are now taking online pre-registrations in St. Louis, St. Louis County, Jefferson County, St. Charles County, Madison County and St. Clair County. St. Louis County received more than 100,000 applications as of last week. Missouri officials say the state will have enough doses to vaccinate all health care workers by the end of the month. Read more in today’s story by reporter Kayla Drake: Online COVID Vaccine Sign-Ups Help St. Louis-Area Counties Plan Dose Distribution.

St. Charles County will hold a mass vaccination event for qualifying health care workers today and tomorrow at the Family Arena. The county’s department of health received hundreds of doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine and is notifying people who are eligible to receive it. An appointment is required.

St. Louis County has added new information about vaccination to its coronavirus FAQ page to help residents know what to expect as their time to receive the vaccine approaches. Frequently asked questions include: How do I know when I can get vaccinated? Where can I see the plan? How does the county prioritize if doses from a shipment run low?

People 85 or older are eligible to receive the vaccination in Monroe County, which says it's running ahead of its distribution schedule. The county held a drive-through vaccine clinic at the Monroe County Fairgrounds in Waterloo on Monday. “We’ve been waiting for it for about a year, so he’s ready to go,” said Alan Coff, who brought his father, James, 96, for his first shot. “I can’t get it yet. I’m 75.” Read more from 5 on your Side: Monroe County Runs Ahead Of Vaccine Schedule, Begins Giving Shots To People 85 And Older.

How is the coronavirus trending locally? Here are the key takeaways:

  • Cases are decreasing in the St. Louis region. The metro area has seen about 1,217 new coronavirus cases per day over the past week. That's down 30% over last week, according to data gathered by the New York Times.
  • In the past week, 207 people in the St. Louis region have died of COVID-19.
  • Since March, there have been 223,073 total cases and 3,657 total deaths in the metro area.
  • Missouri is processing an average of 12,778 tests per day over the past week, and 11% of those have been positive. Illinois is processing an average of 80,503 tests per day over the past week, and 6% of those have been positive.
  • Check out our data dashboard for more.

— Lindsay Toler

5:50 p.m. Friday, Jan. 15

More than 1,000 sites in Missouri will eventually offer the coronavirus vaccine to residents, according to an interactive online map published Friday afternoon by the Department of Health and Senior Services.

Most of the vaccination sites are at CVS, Walgreens and other commercial pharmacies. Hospitals and community health clinics also are listed. However, the map does not yet offer instructions on how Missourians can sign up to receive their shots. Many of the sites do not currently have doses of the vaccine, state health officials said.

“Before contacting a vaccinator on this map to coordinate your vaccination, please understand that many vaccinators are still awaiting supplies from the federal government,” a note on the website said.

Gov. Mike Parson on Thursday announced emergency medical technicians, firefighters and other first responders are now eligible to receive the vaccine. People over 65 and those with certain chronic health conditions will be eligible to receive the vaccine starting Monday.

The St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force reported there were 112 new daily COVID-19 admissions across its hospitals. Eight people died of COVID-19 in those hospitals. The seven-day moving daily average is 15 deaths.

There are currently 732 people hospitalized with a confirmed COVID-19 diagnosis across task force-affiliated hospitals, including 143 patients in the ICU and 84 on ventilators. An additional 43 hospitalized patients are suspected to have COVID-19, with eight in the ICU and two on ventilators.

On Thursday, hospitals discharged 120 COVID-19 patients.

The task force reported that 76,847 COVID-19 vaccinations have been given in the St. Louis region, including first and second doses.

The coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated the gap in life expectancy between white Americans and people of color. The U.S. saw an overall decline in life expectancy of 1.13 years — the largest single-year decline in 40 years — according to researchers at the University of Southern California and Princeton University.

The drop was most pronounced for Latinos, who saw a drop of 3.05 years, and Black people, whose life expectancy dropped 2.10 years. White Americans’ life expectancy decreased by 0.68 years. U.S. life expectancy is now 77.48 years, the lowest since 2003.

Many St. Louis Aquarium employees are complaining that lax enforcement of pandemic safety protocols is endangering their health. They say aquarium management has encouraged them to cut corners with some safety measures, including screening guests for fever and enforcing proper mask use. Read more from economic development reporter Corinne Ruff: St. Louis Aquarium Employees Raise Concerns About Lax COVID Rules Enforcement.

Archbishop Mitchell T. Rozanski of the Archdiocese of St. Louis received his first of two COVID-19 vaccinations today. Rozanski urged others to follow suit when they are able. “We should see the vaccine as an opportunity not only for our own protection, but also as an act of love and charity toward others,” Rozanski said.

Phelps Health Medical Center in Rolla will start providing COVID-19 vaccines to eligible people Monday, on a first-come, first-served basis. Public-facing health care workers, residents of long-term nursing facilities, members of law enforcement and emergency responders are among those now eligible to receive the vaccine in Missouri. Joining that group Monday will be anyone age 65 or older and people with certain health conditions.

Residents and staff at the six senior living communities operated by Bethesda Health Group will receive coronavirus vaccines this month. The first of these clinics will happen at Bethesda Gardens in Kirkwood on Jan. 18.

— Jeremy D. Goodwin, Sarah Fentem and Jonathan Ahl

9:00 a.m. Friday, Jan. 15

Good morning, and happy Friday.

Missouri is expanding the group of people eligible to receive the coronavirus vaccine. Police officers and first responders can now get the jab. Starting Monday, people over 65, as well as people with health conditions, weakened immune systems or developmental disabilities and those who are pregnant can register to receive the vaccine. Read more from health reporter Sarah Fentem: Missouri Emergency Workers Now Eligible For COVID-19 Vaccine, Those 65 And Older Soon.

The Missouri House will not meet in Jefferson City next week because of a coronavirus outbreak. Several House members have tested positive or are in quarantine due to exposure, though that hasn’t stopped many lawmakers from coming to session without wearing masks. Read more from the Missouri Independent: Coronavirus Cases Force Shutdown Of Missouri House.

President-elect Joe Biden’s plan for economic relief from the coronavirus crisis includes $1,400 direct stimulus checks, which would supplement the $600 checks Congress passed late last year. Biden announced his $1.9 trillion plan, called the American Rescue Plan, yesterday ahead of next week’s inauguration. Find details about the plan from NPR: 'We Cannot Afford Inaction': Biden Unveils $1.9 Trillion COVID-19 Relief Plan.

And Graceland is now offering two-hour virtual tours to Elvis Presley’s home for fans who can’t come to Tennessee because of the pandemic. Included in the $100 ticket price is a tour of his home-turned-museum, his private jet and the garden where he is buried. Read more from the Associated Press: Elvis Presley’s Graceland starting virtual tours.

How is the coronavirus trending locally? Here are the key takeaways:

  • Coronavirus cases are increasing in the St. Louis region. The metro area has seen about 1,602 new cases per day over the last week. That's up 3.1 percent over last week, according to data gathered by the New York Times.
  • In the last week, 193 people in the St. Louis region have died of COVID-19.
  • Since March, there have been 218,683 total cases and 3,593 total deaths in the metro area.
  • Missouri is processing an average of 10,750 tests per day over the last week, and 14% of those have been positive. Illinois is processing an average of 76,430 tests per day over the last week, and 6% of those have been positive.
  • Check out our data dashboard for more.

— Lindsay Toler

5 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 14

The St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force reported there were 112 new daily COVID-19 admissions across its hospitals. The seven-day moving average is about 100 admissions. Seventeen people died of COVID-19 in those hospitals.

There are currently 735 people hospitalized with COVID-19 across task force-affiliated hospitals. About 145 are in ICUs, while 83 are on ventilators.

On Wednesday, 129 people were discharged from the hospitals. Since the pandemic began, 16,119 COVID-19 patients have been discharged.

Nonessential court matters in St. Clair, Madison and Bond counties in Illinois are suspended until March 1.

Third Circuit Chief Judge William Mudge extended an order on Thursday stating that only essential court matters and proceedings would be heard in Madison and Bond counties. St. Clair County court officials made a similar announcement.

Missouri University of Science and Technology is preparing to bring students back to campus in Rolla next week to start the new semester.

The school is asking, but not requiring, students to self-quarantine for 10 days prior to returning to campus. The school is planning to continue to require masks and social distancing at all times, and to limit gatherings to 10 people or fewer. Half of the school’s classes will be in person, 25% will be online, and 25% will be a hybrid format.

— Jason Rosenbaum and Jonathan Ahl

9:00 a.m. Thursday, Jan. 14

Good morning. Medical workers at small, independent clinics are struggling to get access to the coronavirus vaccine even as they treat patients infected with COVID-19. They describe having to broker their own deals with large hospitals and health departments to find doses, with little guidance from Missouri officials. “People like myself in primary care practice who see multiple COVID patients a day and are on the front lines,” said Dr. Mimi Vo, who has a small clinic on south Grand Boulevard. “But we are actually completely overlooked, and that is so frustrating.” Read the full story from health reporter Sarah Fentem: St. Louis Doctors Say Small Clinics Are Left Out Of Coronavirus Vaccine Plans.

The U.S. has about two months to prepare for — and slow the spread of — B.1.1.7, the new and more contagious variant of the coronavirus, scientists say. The variant has spread rapidly in the United Kingdom for months, causing a surge in cases, hospitalizations and death. So far, only a handful of cases have been found in America. Read more from NPR: U.K. Variant Could Drive A New Surge In The U.S., Experts Warn.

How is the coronavirus trending locally? Here are the key takeaways:

  • Coronavirus cases are increasing in the St. Louis region. The metro area has seen about 1,750 new cases per day over the last week. That's up 16.7 percent over last week, according to data gathered by the New York Times.
  • Since March, there have been 217,244 total cases and 3,558 total deaths in the metro area.
  • Missouri is processing an average of 10,368 tests per day over the last week, and 15% of those have been positive. Illinois is processing an average of 76,520 tests per day over the last week, and 7% of those have been positive.
  • Check out our data dashboard for more.

— Lindsay Toler

5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 13

The St. Louis Department of Health on Wednesday launched a website where residents can pre-register for COVID-19 vaccinations. People who sign up will be added to the departments's contact list and notified about upcoming vaccination opportunities. The city’s health department still has not received any vaccine doses. St. Louis County started administering vaccinations Jan. 8.

Around 96,000 St. Louis County residents have pre-registered to receive a vaccine, County Executive Sam Page said in a press conference today. Officials estimate more vaccine doses will arrive Monday or Tuesday of next week. The county continues to vaccinate health care workers as well as staff and residents in long-term care facilities. Essential workers and people 75 and older will have to wait until at least February for vaccinations, Page said.

St. Louis and St. Louis County officials say they expect to receive millions of federal dollars for rent and utility assistance in February. The grants are part of a federal stimulus package passed by Congress in late December. Around $9 million will go to St. Louis and $30 million will go to St. Louis County, officials estimate. The city and county have not yet released information about how residents can apply for the funds.

The St. Louis Circuit Court canceled jury service through Feb. 5, Presiding Judge Michael F. Stelzer announced Wednesday. The court hasn’t held a jury trial since March 2020.

St. Louis hospitals report no post-holiday surge in COVID-19 hospitalizations yet, said Dr. Alex Garza, head of the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force. Still, hospitals admitted an average of 98 coronavirus patients per day over the past week. Daily hospital admissions haven’t dipped below 90 people per day in two months, Garza said.

The metro area's four largest hospital systems are currently treating 732 coronavirus patients, which is 50 fewer patients than Monday. Nearly 16,000 coronavirus patients treated at those hospitals have recovered since the pandemic began, Garza said.

1 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 13

Good afternoon. Apologies for the late post today.

Mercy Hospital is starting to see an increase in pregnant patients, suggesting our region may be in for a “Quarantennial” baby boom after ten months of lockdown. Dr. Maggie Marcrander, an OBGYN at Mercy, told 5 on your Side the increase started about three weeks ago. “I feel like I’m seeing people get more comfortable and choosing to either get pregnant for the first time or grow their family.” Read the full story here: 'Quarantennial Boom' Expected In The Spring As Pregnancy Fears Ease During Pandemic.

Employers can require workers to get the COVID-19 vaccine, with exemptions, according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. For example, workers in manufacturing facilities and other industries where people work closely together may be required to get the shots. St. Louis Public Radio’s Shahla Farzan spoke with Washington University labor law professor Peggie Smith about the vaccine rollout in Missouri: Employers Can Require Workers To Get Vaccinated, But Wash U Labor Law Expert Says To 'Tread Carefully.’

Should people get paid to take the coronavirus vaccine? Here’s one idea of how that could work, according to Robert Litan, an economist affiliated with the Brookings Institution: Every American would be eligible for $1,000 from the federal government — $200 for taking both shots, and another $800 when the country reaches herd immunity. Litan says his plan would cost the U.S. about $300 billion. Read more from NPR: Should The Government Pay People To Get Vaccinated? Some Economists Think So.

How is the coronavirus trending locally? Here are the key takeaways:

  • Coronavirus cases are increasing in the St. Louis region. The metro area has seen about 1,759 new cases per day over the last week. That's up 12.2 percent over last week, according to data gathered by the New York Times.
  • Since March, there have been 215,891 total cases and 3,526 total deaths in the metro area.
  • Missouri is processing an average of 11,768 tests per day over the last week, and 16% of those have been positive. Illinois is processing an average of 80,721 tests per day over the last week, and 7% of those have been positive.
  • Check out our data dashboard for more.

— Lindsay Toler

5:55 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 12

St. Charles County lifted its curfew for bars and restaurants on Monday, the St. Louis Business Journal reports. The county originally ordered all food establishments to close by 11 p.m. each night last November.

The earliest restrictions can be lifted in parts of Illinois is Friday if specific regions meet the right metrics, Gov. J.B. Pritzker recently announced. A region can roll back restrictions if it sees test positivity rates less than 12% for three consecutive days and ICU and hospital bed availability above 20%.

Parts of the state must also see COVID-19 hospitalizations decline for seven of the previous 10 days. Region 4, which includes the Metro East, doesn’t meet the hospital bed availability as of Monday.

Fort Leonard Wood began to vaccinate members of the base on Monday. The vaccinations mainly went to the base’s medical community, law enforcement and fire department. TRANSCOM leadership at Scott Air Force Base also received vaccinations.

Illinois now publishes vaccination data on the state’s dashboard. Missouri officials say they will have a similar dashboard by the end of the week.

9 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 12

Good morning. Don’t miss the new entry in our first-year teacher diary, in which we hear from new teachers about their experiences during the pandemic. In this entry, we hear from Becky Oleksiw, who teaches English Language Arts at Hoech Middle School in St. Ann and says teaching to black screens all day is leaving her exhausted. Hear the full story: First-Year Teacher Diary: ‘Is It Getting Any Easier? The Answer Is No.’

St. Louis County and St. Charles County are offering pre-registration for coronavirus vaccinations when they’re more widely available. People who pre-register aren’t guaranteed a spot in line; rather, they’re enrolled to schedule a vaccine when rollout reaches a stage where they qualify. Other counties are considering similar programs. Read more from our news partners at 5 On Your Side: Here's how you can get in line for the COVID-19 vaccine.

President-elect Joe Biden received his second dose of coronavirus vaccine on Monday, three weeks after his first one. “The No. 1 priority is getting vaccines in people’s arms as rapidly as we can,” Biden said. Read more from the Associated Press: Biden gets 2nd dose of vaccine as team readies COVID-19 plan.

Two gorillas at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park tested positive for the coronavirus — the first known natural transmission of the virus to great apes. The gorillas have mild symptoms but are doing well, according to zoo staff. Officials suspect the gorillas contracted the virus from an asymptomatic worker. Read more from NPR: 2 Gorillas In California Contract The Coronavirus.

How is the coronavirus trending locally? Here are the key takeaways:

  • Cases are increasing in the St. Louis region. The metro area has seen about 1,755 new coronavirus cases per day over the past week. That's up 8.6% over last week, according to data gathered by the New York Times.
  • Since March, there have been 214,552 total cases and 3,450 total deaths in the metro area.
  • Missouri is processing an average of 14,183 tests per day over the past week, and 16% of those have been positive. Illinois is processing an average of 78,933 tests per day over the past week, and 7% of those have been positive.
  • Check out our data dashboard for more.

— Lindsay Toler

5:35 p.m. Monday, Jan. 11

St. Louis County is continuing to vaccinate its health department employees this week, as well as scheduling the first non-health department workers who qualify.

“These are health care workers not affiliated with one of our health care systems,” said County Executive Sam Page on Monday. “We are scheduling 100 people each day, beginning today through Thursday. On Friday we anticipate scheduling 320 individuals.”

In addition to doctors and nurses, Page said school nurses, dentists, behavioral health and substance abuse providers, optometrists and physical therapists will also be eligible to receive the vaccine.

Those who are eligible, through the state’s criteria, should contact the county health department at dphcovidvaccine@stlouisco.com to receive more information.

Illinois extended its statewide eviction moratorium until Feb. 6 as the economic effects of the coronavirus continue to plague people throughout the state.

Tenants must still try to make timely partial payments.

This comes as the Illinois Rental Property Owners Association is publicly opposing an effort in the state legislature to extend the moratorium until September.

In a press release, the group said some tenants are violating lease agreements in ways unrelated to COVID-19.

9 a.m. Monday, Jan. 11

Good morning. Missouri expects to finish vaccinating the first round of people — made up of health care workers, nursing home residents and staff — by the end of January. Once those people are vaccinated, the state will begin giving doses to other essential workers, including teachers and emergency medical technicians. Read more from reporter Sarah Fentem: Missouri Officials Say All Health Workers Will Get Coronavirus Vaccines This Month.

It’s less clear when the general public in Missouri will have access to the vaccine. The state says doses should be available to everyone who wants one by late summer, but there are few public details on how that rollout would work. “I think summer is a generous estimate,” said Dr. Alex Garza, head of the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force. “You can see how complicated even just vaccinating the health care sector is … and that’s a relatively small population. Once we get outside of the health care population, it becomes much broader.”

How is the coronavirus trending locally? Here are the key takeaways:

  • Cases are increasing in the St. Louis region. The metro area has seen about 1,780 new coronavirus cases per day over the past week. That's up 16.5% over last week, according to data gathered by the New York Times.
  • Since March, there have been 213,014 total cases and 3,448 total deaths in the metro area.
  • Missouri is processing an average of 13,640 tests per day over the past week, and 17% of those have been positive. Illinois is processing an average of 81,845 tests per day over the past week, and 7% of those have been positive.
  • Check out our data dashboard for more.

— Lindsay Toler

5:05 p.m. Friday, Jan. 8

The St. Louis County Department of Public Health has begun administering the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. The department received 975 doses this week and started giving the shots to front-line health care workers in the department Friday morning in north St. Louis County. Vaccinations will continue next week.

Ten more members of the St. Louis County Police Department have tested positive for COVID-19. This total includes officers and staff members. There have been more than 169 positive tests since March. Of those, 156 people have recovered and returned to duty.

Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville is requiring students, faculty and staff to be tested for the coronavirus before classes begin this semester. Three days into the SIUE testing, 15 of the 2,600 people tested were positive. That’s a positivity rate of 0.11%. The testing will continue through Jan. 21.

The University of Missouri men’s basketball team is postponing its game Saturday night against LSU. There were an undisclosed number of positive COVID-19 tests and contact tracing results in Mizzou’s program. No makeup date has been set.

— Jonathan Ahl

9:10 a.m. Friday, Jan. 8

Good morning, and happy Friday. Dentists, nurses and health care workers who don’t work in hospitals are asking when it will be their turn to receive doses of coronavirus vaccine. Missouri’s vaccine plan prioritizes patient-facing medical workers, but the rollout has been slow to reach people outside of hospitals. “We are in saliva and aerosols all day, every day and would like some help also,” one dental worker said to the 5 On Your Side I-Team. “I feel we are a lost group.” Read more from KSDK: Slow COVID-19 vaccine rollout for non-hospital health care workers across St. Louis.

Close to 6 million people in the U.S. have received their first shot of coronavirus vaccine — a hopeful sign, even as the death count continues to rise. The U.S. registered nearly 3,900 COVID-19 deaths yesterday, beating its own record for the third day in a row, according to the Associated Press.

How is the coronavirus trending locally? Here are the key takeaways:

  • Cases are increasing in the St. Louis region. The metro area has seen about 1,555 new coronavirus cases per day over the past week, up 14% over last week, according to data gathered by the New York Times.
  • Since March, there have been 207,468 total cases and 3,400 total deaths in the metro area.
  • Missouri is processing an average of 8,418 tests per day over the past week, and 20% of those have been positive. Illinois is processing an average of 61,326 tests per day over the past week, and 8% of those have been positive.
  • Check out our data dashboard for more.

— Lindsay Toler

5:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 7

Airmen at Scott Air Force Base have begun receiving COVID-19 vaccine, the military installation said. The active-duty airmen at the Metro East airfield are among the first military personnel in the country to be inoculated. Missouri’s Fort Leonard Wood has not yet received a shipment of the vaccine.

Illinois has passed the 1 million infections mark. The state’s Department of Public Health said Thursday that 1,008,045 people in the state have been diagnosed with COVID-19, after adding 8,757 cases to the rolls. Of the more than 1 million cases, 17,272 have been fatal.

Dr. Anthony Fauci spoke to Washington University medical students and BJC Hospital employees Thursday morning. The top public health voice on infectious diseases in the country addressed the students and medical staff over Zoom. He told them things will continue to get worse before getting better but that the vaccines are the path to a return to normal.

— Ryan Delaney

9:00 a.m. Thursday, Jan. 7

Good morning. Coronavirus isn’t the top of today’s headlines. Instead United States citizens are recovering from the fallout of the deadly attempted insurrection of the Capitol building by pro-Trump extremists. Early this morning, President Trump affirmed there will be “an orderly transition” of power to 2020 election winner Joe Biden on Inauguration Day. Follow NPR live updates for developments.

Yesterday was the deadliest day in the U.S. since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. The country recorded 3,865 deaths from COVID-19, breaking the record set the day before of 3,775 deaths. The U.S. has the highest daily death count in the world by far.

How is the coronavirus trending locally? Here are the key takeaways:

  • Coronavirus cases are increasing in the St. Louis region. The metro area has seen about 1500 new cases per day over the last week. That's up 20% over last week, according to data gathered by the New York Times.
  • Since March, there have been 204,994 total cases and 3,333 total deaths in the metro area.
  • Missouri is processing an average of 7,975 tests per day over the last week, and 20% of those have been positive. Illinois is processing an average of 60,141 tests per day over the last week, and 8% of those have been positive.
  • Check out our data dashboard for more.

— Lindsay Toler

6:40 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 6

The St. Louis Department of Health expects to get some doses of coronavirus vaccine in the next week to two weeks, St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson said Wednesday. She said the specific number of doses was not immediately available.

The doses would be for employees at federally qualified health centers and first responders like paramedics. St. Louis County received 975 doses of the Pfizer vaccine on Tuesday.

In Illinois, Gov. J.B. Pritzker has released guidelines for the next phase of the coronavirus vaccine rollout.

Phase 1B will include all Illinois residents 65 and older and “front-line essential workers,” who include teachers, grocery store workers, public transit employees and people in prison or jail. While national guidance suggests Phase 1B includes those 75 or older, Pritzker said he went with a younger eligibility to reduce the fatality of the disease in Black and brown communities.

— Rachel Lippmann

9:00 a.m. Wednesday, Jan. 6

Good morning. Scientists are learning more about the coronavirus' effect on the brain. A new study shows COVID-19 appears to produce brain-related problems including seizures and psychosis — and even an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. The finding could help explain why some people who are hospitalized for COVID-19 are discharged with symptoms associated with brain injuries, such as forgetfulness or difficulty organizing tasks. Read more from NPR: How COVID-19 Attacks The Brain And May Cause Lasting Damage.

Colleges and universities in the St. Louis area tried to adapt the college experience to make it resemble a normal school year during the pandemic. We talked to students as they wrapped up their fall semester and looked ahead to a spring that promises to be similar. Here’s what they told education reporter Ryan Delaney: ‘All The Worst Parts Of College’: Students Reflect On A Year Of Online Classes And No Parties.

Madison County health officials got more than they bargained for after putting out a survey asking people if they want to receive the coronavirus vaccine. In a county of about 260,000 residents, more than 11,000 people responded within the first day saying they would take the vaccine. The survey doesn’t guarantee residents a spot in line, but officials are using the data to inform vaccine rollout when the time comes. Read more from KSDK: 'I Signed Up Right Away' | 11,000 Madison County Residents Fill Out Vaccine Distribution Survey In First 24 Hours.

How is the coronavirus trending locally? Here are the key takeaways:

  • Cases are increasing in the St. Louis region. The metro area has seen about 1,567 new coronavirus cases per day over the past week. That's up 34% over last week, according to data gathered by the New York Times.
  • Since March, there have been 203,580 total cases and 3,313 total deaths in the metro area.
  • Missouri is processing an average of 8,757 tests per day over the last week, and 19% of those have been positive. Illinois is processing an average of 62,777 tests per day over the past week, and 8% of those have been positive.
  • Check out our data dashboard for more.

— Lindsay Toler

5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 5

The St. Louis County Department of Public Health received 975 doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine this morning. The department says it will start vaccinating “patient-facing” health care workers this week, including about 275 of the department’s clinical employees. No vaccines have been made available to the general public yet in the St. Louis area.

Missouri has administered 39% of the vaccine doses shipped to the state, according to analysis by USA Today; Illinois has administered 41% of its doses. To see how Missouri’s vaccine distribution compares to other states, check out this tracker from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The coronavirus pandemic has quashed two of the region’s biggest St. Patrick’s Day celebrations. For a second consecutive year, the Ancient Order of Hibernians has canceled the annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade and the Dogtown Irish Festival. Organizers say they plan to be back in 2022.

Illinois reopened DMV offices today. During the fall, the Belleville Driver Services facility closed after an employee tested positive for the coronavirus. Read the full story from our news partner, the Belleville News-Democrat: Face Masks, Social Distancing Required As Illinois Drivers Services Facilities Reopen

— Kayla Drake

9:00 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 5

Good morning. Health care workers in St. Louis are starting to receive their second doses of coronavirus vaccine. And as Missouri prepares to open vaccinations to more people, the state health department says it’s considering an appointment-based system to avoid the long lines and wait times seen in other states. Read more from our news partners at 5 on your Side: Missouri Vaccine Participation Likely Around 60% For Groups Eligible, Officials Hope Numbers Improve.

Arts organizations and local businesses say they need financial help from the federal government to stay open in 2021. Theaters, live music venues and museums are seeking relief grants through the Save Our Stages Act, part of the $900 billion stimulus package passed late last month. And small-business owners are starting to apply for another round of funding from the reauthorized Paycheck Protection Program. Recipients say the money helps for now, but it’s not enough to overcome the pandemic’s devastating impact. “It won’t stop the evictions or the hardships or the struggles that they’ve going on,” said Shekela Bester, owner of Florissant-based nonprofit Hoppee.

How is the coronavirus trending locally? Here are the key takeaways:

  • Cases are increasing in the St. Louis region. The metro area has seen about 1,616 new coronavirus cases per day over the past week. That's up 37% over last week, according to data gathered by the New York Times.
  • Since March, there have been 202,264 total cases and 3,264 total deaths in the metro area.
  • Missouri is processing an average of 11,081 tests per day over the past week, and 17% of those have been positive. Illinois is processing an average of 60,990 tests per day over the past week, and 8% percent of those have been positive.
  • Check out our data dashboard for more.

— Lindsay Toler

5:20 p.m. Monday, Jan. 4

St. Louis health officials haven’t found evidence of a new COVID-19 strain in the city or elsewhere in Missouri. Health experts said the strain was first identified in the United Kingdom late last year and is more contagious than other COVID-19 strains, but scientists say there is no evidence yet that the virus is more lethal. Cases of the new strain have been found in California, Colorado, New York and Florida.

The St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force reported 107 new COVID-19 admissions to area hospitals, while the seven-day moving average for hospital admissions remains at 95 admissions.

The task force also reported 836 patients are currently hospitalized for COVID-19, with 180 patients in intensive care and 109 patients on ventilators.

Dr. Alex Garza, who leads the task force, said that the U.K. variant of COVID-19 is a concern and that doctors and scientists are keeping a close eye on the strain.

“It’s only been discovered in a couple of places, but that’s mostly because there hasn’t been a lot of genomic discovery of the virus,” Garza said. “It will make it here sooner or later, there’s no doubt about that, the question is when and then what happens when it does arrive.”

Indoor dining in St. Louis County bars and restaurants resumed today after county officials suspended indoor dining in November. The county’s new guidelines include:

  • A 25% occupancy limit based on a restaurant’s fire code capacity or the number of diners who can sit at tables spaced six feet apart, whichever number is lower.
  • Requiring all restaurant and bar staff to wear masks. Customers will also be required to wear masks unless eating or drinking.
  • A 10 p.m. closing time.
  • Collecting the names and contact information of guests to aid in contact tracing.
  • Physical barriers, like Plexiglas, at some bars.

The county health department will continue to monitor coronavirus cases to see if future changes will be needed, St. Louis County Executive Sam Page said during a press conference.

Moratoriums on shutting off utilities end tomorrow for most St. Louis-area residents. Three of the region’s utility providersSpire, Missouri American Water and Amerenextended temporary moratoriums through the holidays. The companies will resume disconnections after Jan. 5, but plan to offer payment plans and one-time grants to qualifying homeowners and businesses. In the Metro East, people who need assistance have more time. Ameren Illinois extended its moratorium until March 31.

Missouri residents who cannot afford their utility bills can get assistance through the state’s Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program. Illinois has a similar program. The nonprofit Heat Up St. Louis also provides utility assistance to Missouri and Illinois residents.

— Chad Davis and Kayla Drake

8:30 a.m. Monday, Jan. 4

Good morning, and Happy New Year!

The United States is not vaccinating people as quickly as planned, spurring a new conversation among health experts about whether to change the process. One idea is to cut current Moderna vaccine doses in half so that double the number of people can receive a shot. Another suggestion is to delay second shots scheduled for priority groups such as hospital workers and instead provide first shots for a broader group of people. Read more about the delay via NPR: COVID-19 Cases Surge In U.S. As Vaccinations Fall Below Government Predictions.

Hospitals in St. Louis are desperate for temporary workers as the coronavirus leaves them understaffed. Federal money is helping to soften the significant financial burden: Temporary health care workers are making twice their normal rate, and some traveling agency nurses can make more than $100 per hour. Read more from reporter Sarah Fentem: Hospitals Rely More On Expensive Temporary Workers During Pandemic.

How is the coronavirus trending locally? Here are the key takeaways:

  • Cases are increasing in the St. Louis region. The metro area has seen about 1,522 new coronavirus cases per day over the past week. That's up almost 23% over last week, according to data gathered by the New York Times.
  • Since March, there have been 200,521 total cases and 3,250 total deaths in the metro area.
  • Missouri is processing an average of 11,081 tests per day over the past week, and 17% of those have been positive. Illinois is processing an average of 63,637 tests per day over the past week, and 8% of those have been positive.
  • Check out our data dashboard for more.

— Lindsay Toler

5 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 31

Good evening. This will be the final entry about COVID-19 before 2020 is ushered out the door.

The St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force reported 93 new COVID-19 admissions to selected hospitals. That’s down from 98 announced on Wednesday. The seven-day moving average is at 100 hospital admissions. Sixteen people who were hospitalized with COVID-19 died.

Currently, 796 people are admitted at task force hospitals for COVID-19. There are 183 people in ICUs and 101 people using ventilators.

On Wednesday, 141 people were discharged from task force hospitals. Since the beginning of the pandemic, 14,603 people have left hospitals.

People in outstate Missouri are now receiving COVID-19 vaccine.

The Phelps County Health Center in Rolla received about 1,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine on Tuesday. Once those doses arrived, vaccinations of health care workers began immediately.

The arrival of the vaccine wasn’t without complications. The hospital was expecting the Moderna vaccine. But miscommunication between the state and federal governments reduced the number of doses that came to Missouri. Phelps County Health Center CEO Ed Clayton said that meant all Moderna doses were redirected to long-term care facilities, and hospitals like his received the Pfizer vaccine, which requires ultra cold storage, instead.

Phelps Health has been able to handle the storage requirements of the Pfizer vaccine with dry ice and have more robust refrigeration units on order. Clayton said his hospital ordered more of the vaccine, though it’s unknown when it will arrive.

Jason Rosenbaum and Jonathan Ahl

9 a.m. Thursday, Dec. 31

Good morning, and good riddance to a deadly and difficult year.

The U.S. is not vaccinating people as quickly as planned. Fewer than 3 million Americans will have received a first dose of the vaccine by the end of the year — far from the government’s goal of 20 million people. Experts expect to see significantly more access to vaccines after Jan. 8. Read more from NPR: U.S. Likely Will Miss Goal Of Vaccinating 20 Million By The New Year.

Fort Leonard Wood has plenty of ultra-cold storage for COVID-19 vaccine, but it’s too soon to know when doses will arrive in amounts sufficient to distribute to all soldiers. The military base expects to have enough doses in early spring to vaccinate trainees. Read more from reporter Jonathan Ahl: Fort Leonard Wood Soldiers Are On The Same Timeline As Civilians To Receive COVID-19 Vaccine.

Colorado and California have confirmed cases of the more contagious variant of the coronavirus first identified in the United Kingdom. There are also suspected cases in Massachusetts and Delaware. Is the mutated strain in Missouri or Illinois? No one knows for sure. The U.S. does far less genetic sequencing than other developed countries, which could delay the country’s response. Read more from the Associated Press: California Has Nation’s 2nd Confirmed Case Of Virus Variant.

How is the coronavirus trending locally? Here are the key takeaways:

  • Cases are decreasing in the St. Louis region. The metro area has seen about 1,245 new coronavirus cases per day over the past week, down 20% over last week, according to data gathered by the New York Times.
  • Since March, there have been 194,494 total cases and 3,201 total deaths in the metro area.
  • Missouri is processing an average of 7,021 tests per day over the past week, and 19% of those have been positive. Illinois is processing an average of 56,434 tests per day over the past week, and 7% of those have been positive.
  • Check out our data dashboard for more.

— Lindsay Toler

5:15 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 30

Missouri has received shipments of both the Moderna and Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines, Gov. Mike Parson said Wednesday.

So far, more than 66,000 health care workers and long-term care facility staff and residents have received the first dose of the vaccine, Parson said.

The governor said Missouri should receive an additional 84,000 doses by the end of the week. That shipment includes vaccine for health care workers in St. Louis, who will start getting their second doses next week.

During a briefing Wednesday, St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson urged people to keep their New Year’s Eve celebrations small, preferably at home with members of their households. She said health department officials will monitor parties and bars to ensure they abide by the city’s 11 p.m. curfew and other COVID-19 safety measures.

“I know New Year’s Eve isn’t until 12, so pretend you’re in another time zone,” Krewson said during a briefing.

Dr. Alex Garza, head of the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force, made a similar plea. He said COVID-19 hospitalizations are still high, with a moving average of 832 patients across task force hospitals.

St. Joseph Hospital ICU nurse Natalie Crawford said people are becoming numb to those statistics.

“There are horrible decisions being made in the background that people do not understand. When they hear of a death, they think, ‘OK someone passed of COVID.’ But people aren’t just passing of COVID, they are fighting, struggling.” she said. “They are sometimes going out kicking and screaming.”

St. Louis will open two new homeless shelters in mid-January. The city’s top fiscal body approved Tandy recreation center in the Ville neighborhood and Cherokee recreation center in south St. Louis to house up to 30 people each. The city also approved a contract for mobile bathroom and shower units that will travel among homeless encampments.

— Corinne Ruff

9:15 a.m. Wednesday, Dec. 30

Good morning. St. Louis County Executive Sam Page announced this morning a plan to reopen indoor dining, which has been banned for six weeks. The updated restrictions for restaurants and bars include:

  • A 25% occupancy limit.
  • New mask protocols for staff.
  • A 10 p.m. closing time.
  • Contact tracing protocols.
  • Physical barriers, like Plexiglas, at some bars.

The news comes too late for the holiday rush, when tips are high and gatherings are large. "The damage has been done," says Michael Saracino of Bartolino’s, one of the restaurant owners who tried to sue to overturn the indoor dining ban. "The busiest months of the year have been ruined for tens of thousands of restaurant workers." Read more from our news partners at 5 on your Side: St. Louis County restaurants looking forward to lifting of indoor dining ban.

A judge in St. Louis has extended St. Louis’ eviction moratorium by one month. Renters who are unable to make rent payments can’t be evicted until after Jan. 31.

The coronavirus pandemic changed how teens learned to drive in 2020. Some future drivers had to wait a few months because the license offices shut down. Others did driver’s ed through virtual schooling. Read more in today’s story from reporter Rachel Lippmann: Like Most Milestones, Learning To Drive In A Pandemic Looks Different.

How is the coronavirus trending locally? Here are the key takeaways:

  • Cases are decreasing in the St. Louis region. The metro area has seen about 1,169 new coronavirus cases per day over the past week, down 26.8% over last week, according to data gathered by the New York Times.
  • Since March, there have been 192,609 total cases and 3,162 total deaths in the metro area.
  • Missouri is processing an average of 7,802 tests per day over the past week, and 16% of those have been positive. Illinois is processing an average of 59,339 tests per day over the past week, and 7% of those have been positive.
  • Check out our data dashboard for more.

— Lindsay Toler

5:15 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 29

The first of nearly 210,000 staff and residents at long- term care facilities in Missouri and Illinois started receiving vaccinations against COVID-19 on Monday. Pharmacy chains CVS and Walgreens are distributing the vaccine under a program run by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Nursing homes have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. Vaccines will help, but only if residents and staff take them. The Belleville News-Democrat reports staff and residents at some long-term care facilities are skeptical of the new vaccines and refuse to be vaccinated.

Phelps Health in Rolla received its first shipment of coronavirus vaccines and started to administer them to medical staff today. St. Clair County officials in Illinois say they’re ready to give vaccines to the second round of eligible recipients as soon as they have more doses. The next group of people in line to be vaccinated include first responders, more health care workers and people older than 75.

The pandemic is exacerbating already worrying trends for public colleges and universities in the bistate area. Public institutions were already making do with fewer students and less state funding before the coronavirus, and the pandemic accelerated those reductions this year.

— Eric Schmid

9 a.m. Tuesday, Dec. 29

Good morning. December has been the deadliest month of the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S. so far. About 65,000 people have died this month, and the daily death count has been over 3,000 for the past several weeks, according to the Associated Press. Nearly 1.3 million people traveled through U.S. airports on Sunday — the highest one-day total in nine months — despite health officials' pleas to stay home during the holiday season.

The number of people asking for food assistance in southeast Missouri has tripled, but it’s harder than ever to get approved for food stamps. First-time applicants must complete an interview, but high call volume makes it difficult to get through by the deadline. One attorney said she phoned the call center for seven days straight on behalf of a homeless client in October and never got through, so her client’s application was rejected. Read more from our news partners at the Missouri Independent: Food Stamp Applicants Struggle To Get Through Missouri Call Center Line.

How is the coronavirus trending locally? Here are the key takeaways:

  • Cases are decreasing in the St. Louis region. The metro area has seen about 1,180 new coronavirus cases per day over the past week, down 27% over last week, according to data gathered by the New York Times.
  • Since March, there have been 190,954 total cases and 3,126 total deaths in the metro area.
  • Missouri is processing an average of 9,963 tests per day over the past week, and 14% of those have been positive. Illinois is processing an average of 61,559 tests per day over the past week, and 7% of those have been positive.
  • Check out our data dashboard for more.

— Lindsay Toler

4:40 p.m. Monday, Dec. 28

COVID-19 numbers in the St. Louis metro area are going down, but the leader of the region’s pandemic task force warned today that they are still dangerously high. New COVID admissions, hospitalizations and deaths are at their lowest levels since early November. Dr. Alex Garza, head of the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force, said it won’t take much to make the numbers spike again.

“We still have to see if we’re going to see any increase of cases from the Christmas holiday. Now we know holiday gatherings in cold weather and people coming indoors is really a recipe of the spread of the virus,” Garza said during the task force briefing.

Garza is recommending people celebrate New Year’s Eve at home with the people they live with, and wear masks and practice social distancing when around other people.

Missouri’s Department of Labor and Industrial Relations is waiting for guidance from the federal government before reinstating certain unemployment benefits that expired on Dec. 26.

The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance and Pandemic Unemployment Compensation programs are part of the new round of stimulus legislation that Congress passed last week and President Trump signed over the weekend.

Missouri’s Department of Labor advises people in these programs to continue filing for benefits, but also warns the payments won’t be made until the federal guidelines are in place.

Fort Leonard Wood’s commanding general has renewed its COVID-19 public health emergency status for another 90 days. Changes to the order from Brig. Gen. James Bonner include lifting the mileage restriction on travel, but also prohibiting service members from patronizing any business that does not have a face covering mandate for staff and customers.

Many soldiers stationed at Fort Leonard Wood will be returning to the post this week after holiday leave. The Department of Defense does not release COVID-19 numbers for military installations, citing national security.

—Jonathan Ahl

9 a.m. Monday, Dec. 28

Good morning, and welcome to the last week of 2020. We hope you had a peaceful holiday.

President Trump signed the $900 billion pandemic relief package into law last night. Americans will receive $600 checks — not $2,000, as the president said he wanted — along with a boost in unemployment benefits and funds for small-business aid and vaccine distribution. The U.S. House plans to vote today to increase the amount in the relief checks sent directly to qualifying Americans, but any increase is unlikely to pass the Senate. Here’s more from NPR: Trump Signs COVID-19 Relief Deal After His Criticism Threatened To Derail It.

COVID-19 is a far deadlier illness than the flu, according to a new analysis from the VA St. Louis Health Care System and Washington University. Patients hospitalized for COVID-19 were four times as likely to need a ventilator and five times as likely to die as patients with the flu. About 1 in 4 patients hospitalized for COVID-19 without a history of diabetes had to be treated with emergency insulin — about twice the rate seen in flu patients. Read more in our story from reporter Shahla Farzan: 5 Times Deadlier Than Flu, COVID-19 Has Risk Of Long-Term Effects, St. Louis VA Study Finds.

How is the coronavirus trending locally? Here are the key takeaways:

  • Cases are decreasing in the St. Louis region. The metro area has seen about 1,239 new coronavirus cases per day over the past week, down 27% over last week, according to data gathered by the New York Times.
  • Since March, there have been 189,865 total cases and 3,111 total deaths in the metro area.
  • Missouri is processing an average of 9,983 tests per day over the past week, and 14% of those have been positive. Illinois is processing an average of 66,376 tests per day over the past week, and 7% of those have been positive.
  • Check out our data dashboard for more.

— Lindsay Toler

5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 23

St. Louis County restaurants will find out next Wednesday what steps they’ll need to take to re-open for indoor dining.

County Executive Sam Page met with a group of restaurant owners on Tuesday to discuss those guidelines, which could include a curfew, occupancy limits, and distancing rules. He told reporters that while the number of cases is still too high for indoor dining to be completely safe, restaurants have sacrificed a lot during a complete shutdown of indoor dining that began Nov. 17.

A St. Charles County judge has kept in place an 11 p.m. closing time for restaurants, bars and other places that serve alcohol.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports two restaurants sued over the emergency order, calling it “bizarre and nonsensical.” But the judge rejected a temporary restraining order, which would have lifted the curfew immediately. A hearing on a preliminary injunction is set for Jan. 8.

Meanwhile, the head of the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force urged Page to “keep an eye on the case data” in making the decision to open up restaurant dining rooms.

Dr. Alex Garza said Wednesday that despite some small improvements in the number of coronavirus cases, the region’s hospital capacity remains stretched. He said any big surge of cases following Christmas could push health care facilities back to the point of needing to implement crisis standards of care.

The last 24 hours have been the deadliest for COVID-19 patients in the hospital since the task force started keeping track of the data in October. Thirty-one patients who were in task force hospitals died.

This will be the final post until Dec. 28. We wish our readers Happy Holidays, and urge you to wear a mask, wash your hands, stay six feet apart and keep your gatherings small.

— Rachel Lippmann

9 a.m. Wednesday, Dec. 23

Good morning. More than 3,000 people have died from coronavirus in the St. Louis metropolitan area. As of Friday morning, our metro area's death toll reached 3,032, according to data gathered by the New York Times from state and local health agencies. The grim milestone comes almost six weeks after the region passed 2,000 deaths.

President Trump is threatening to derail the COVID-19 relief package Congress passed on Monday. He says he wants Congress to boost payments to $2,000 per individual and $4,000 for couples before he signs the bill into law. Read more from NPR: Trump Slams COVID-19 Relief Bill, Asks For Changes After Bitter Negotiations.

How is the coronavirus trending locally? Here are the key takeaways:

  • Coronavirus cases are decreasing in the St. Louis region. The metro area has seen about 1,596 new cases per day over the last week, down 13.4% over last week, according to data gathered by the New York Times.
  • Since March, there have been 184,429 total cases and 3,032 total deaths in the metro area.
  • Missouri is processing an average of 11,015 tests per day over the last week. 16.3 percent of those have been positive. Illinois is processing an average of 78,636 tests per day over the last week. 7.4 percent of those have been positive.
  • Check out our data dashboard for more.

— Lindsay Toler

5:50 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 22

More than 100,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine will arrive in Missouri this week, said a spokesperson for Gov. Mike Parson. The state has vaccinated 23,000 front-line health care workers since last Monday. That’s around 5% of all people eligible to receive the first wave of vaccinations, which includes health care workers and nursing home residents and workers. More than 430,000 people in the group are still waiting to be vaccinated, according to the governor’s office.

"While we continue to receive positive news in our fight against COVID-19, I remind Missourians that the virus is still here, and we all must take the necessary precautions to prevent the spread of this virus, especially through the holiday season," Parson said.

Within a couple of weeks, 700 additional facilities in Missouri are expected to be approved as coronavirus vaccine sites, the governor's office said. That would bring the total number of vaccine sites in the state to 985.

Illinois has vaccinated nearly 82,000 front-line health care workers against the coronavirus, more people than any other state as of Tuesday, according to NPR Illinois.

The St. Louis County Council has cleared the way for Santa Claus to travel to the area, even during the COVID-19 pandemic. Its members adopted a resolution on Tuesday assuring “all children who go to bed on Dec. 24 with thoughts of Santa in their heads that is has been confirmed that Mr. and Mrs. Claus, all the elves, and even the eight tiny reindeer, have quarantined and followed all recommendations of public health officials, and Santa will be able to make all deliveries along his usual route this year.”

In a year that’s been marked by sharp divides on the council over the pandemic, the resolution brought a rare moment of unity, with all seven members jumping on as co-sponsors. The measure follows a similar resolution adopted Dec. 11 by the St. Louis Board of Aldermen.

— Kayla Drake and Rachel Lippmann

9 a.m. Tuesday, Dec. 22

Good morning. Stimulus payments could be in your bank account as soon as next week after Congress passed a $900 billion pandemic relief package last night. The bill now goes to President Trump, who is expected to sign it into law soon. The package includes, via NPR:

  • $600 direct payments for every adult earning up to $75,000, with smaller payments for those earning up to $99,000, and $600 per child.
  • Unemployment benefits for jobless workers, who will receive up to $300 per week through mid-March.
  • $25 billion in rent assistance to help families stay in their homes.
  • $13 billion for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

Read more about what’s in the 5,593-page bill, by far the longest legislation in U.S. history, from NPR: Here Is What's In Congress' COVID-19 Relief Package.

How is the coronavirus trending locally? Here are the key takeaways:

  • Cases are decreasing in the St. Louis region. The metro area has seen about 1,633 new coronavirus cases per day over the past week, down 12% over last week, according to data gathered by the New York Times.
  • Since March, there have been 182,697 total cases and 2,985 total deaths in the metro area.
  • Missouri is processing an average of 13,611 tests per day over the past week, and 15% of those have been positive. Illinois is processing an average of 79,853 tests per day over the past week, and 7% of those have been positive.
  • Check out our data dashboard for more.

— Lindsay Toler

6 p.m. Monday, Dec. 21

Jefferson County health officials voted Monday to extend the county's mask mandate until Jan. 21. Members of the Jefferson County Health Department Board of Trustees voted 3-2 to continue the mandate, which would have ended Monday. The health department implemented the mask mandate last month to help keep the coronavirus from spreading.

St. Louis County Executive Sam Page said the county may release plans to gradually lift some coronavirus restrictions. If the number of new coronavirus cases remains stable, Page said he could announce a limited reopening plan next week that might include allowing limited indoor dining to resume as early as next month.

There were 87 new COVID-19 daily admissions across the St. Louis hospital system, the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force reported. The seven-day moving average is 109 people. The task force reported that there are 873 hospital patients confirmed to have COVID-19, 185 patients are in the ICU, and 114 are on ventilators.

“We’re starting to see some progress, but we still have way too many people in our hospitals that are sick, and we’re still admitting way too many people to the hospitals,” said Dr. Alex Garza, who leads the task force. “We’re still at that 100 person-per-day average, and that’s still very high.”

The St. Louis County Police Department reported that 16 of its members have tested positive for COVID-19 over the past six days. There have been 145 positive tests since March 28.

-Chad Davis and Shahla Farzan

9 a.m. Monday, Dec. 21

Good morning. Front-line health care workers are getting a fresh round of reinforcements. Starting today, more than 100 nurses, respiratory therapists and patient care technicians from health care company Vizient will fill in at six hospital groups in the region. They’ll be paid using coronavirus funds from the federal government. Read more from reporter Jaclyn Driscoll: Additional Hospital Staff To Begin Working Monday In Missouri.

More than 1,000 people have signed an online petition asking BJC Healthcare to change its rules about who gets vaccinated first. Doctors told 5 on Your Side that some medical workers who treat COVID-19 patients won’t be vaccinated until late next month because older staff members are first in line. The petition says that “although it is important to ensure that everyone is vaccinated, the people on the front lines who are caring for sick patients should be the first to receive a dose.” Read more from 5 on Your Side: Online petition calls on BJC to change COVID-19 vaccine plan doctors said puts older workers ahead of frontline employees.

President-elect Joe Biden will get his first dose of the coronavirus vaccine today live on television. “I don’t want to get ahead of the line, but I want to make sure we demonstrate to the American people that it is safe to take,” Biden said, according to the Associated Press.

Reports of new, fast-spreading strains of COVID-19 in Britain and South Africa are causing alarm and travel restrictions the week of the Christmas holiday. But virus experts say the vaccine is still effective against these new strains. Read more in this explainer from the AP.

How is the coronavirus trending locally? Here are the key takeaways:

  • Coronavirus cases are decreasing in the St. Louis region. The metro area has seen about 1,711 new cases per day over the past week, down 7% over last week, according to data gathered by the New York Times.
  • Since March, there have been 181,192 total cases and 2,970 total deaths in the metro area.
  • Missouri is processing an average of 12,053 tests per day over the past week, and 15% of those have been positive. Illinois is processing an average of 80,777 tests per day over the past week, and 7% of those have been positive.
  • Check out our data dashboard for more.

— Lindsay Toler

6 p.m. Friday, Dec. 18

The Food and Drug Administration on Friday authorized the COVID-19 vaccine developed by Moderna for emergency use, giving health officials a second vaccine to combat the disease. The authorization clears the way for shipments of Moderna's vaccine to Missouri and Illinois as early as next week.

The Franklin County health order requiring people to wear face coverings while in public is due to expire at noon Sunday. Officials have no plans to extend the order, Presiding Commissioner Tim Brinker said. Nearly 600 Franklin County residents have tested positive for COVID-19 in the past 10 days, according to data from the county health department.

Health officials in St. Charles County again called for people to take steps to avoid spreading the coronavirus during holiday gatherings. Their recommendations include wearing face coverings when interacting with people outside of one’s immediate household, washing hands regularly, hosting events outdoors if possible and opening windows or otherwise enhancing ventilation during indoor gatherings. For those traveling, the Department of Public Health recommends self-quarantining for several days before departure and again after returning home.

St. Louis County officials published an online summary of health risks posed by gathering indoors without a mask during the pandemic. It cites national studies showing that indoor dining appears to be high-risk behavior that drives increases in coronavirus infections.

According to the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force, there were 115 new daily admissions to member hospitals in the St. Louis area. The seven-day moving average is 114. There are currently 854 hospitalized patients with COVID-19, with another 75 who are awaiting test results but who doctors believe are positive.

“Our numbers are plateauing, but they’re plateauing at a dangerously high level,” said Dr. Alex Garza, the task force leader.

— Jeremy D. Goodwin

9 a.m. Friday, Dec. 18

Good morning. Vice President Mike Pence and his wife, Karen, received the coronavirus vaccine this morning, live on television. “I didn’t feel a thing. Well done,” Pence said after receiving the shot from Surgeon General Jerome Adams. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell are expected to be vaccinated in the next few days. Read more from NBC News: Pence receives Covid vaccine in televised appearance.

The Mizzou men’s basketball team won’t play its scheduled game tonight because of the coronavirus. Officials canceled the game due to unspecified COVID-19 concerns from the Prairie View A&M team, which had a player test positive earlier this month. The game will not be rescheduled.

And don’t miss our conversation with high school seniors applying to college during the pandemic. At a time of social distancing, the college tour road trip has been replaced by virtual campus tours. “It just doesn’t feel like a real experience,” said Parker Kopplin, a senior at Ritenour High School in St. Louis County. He wanted to tour the campus at UCLA; with online visits “it kind of just seems like you’re reading and talking to a brochure.” Read the story from reporter Ryan Delaney: The Dilemma For High School Seniors: Navigating College Admissions In A Pandemic.

How is the coronavirus trending locally? Here are the key takeaways:

  • Coronavirus cases are decreasing in the St. Louis region. The metro area has seen about 1,879 new cases per day over the past week. That's down 3% over last week, according to data gathered by the New York Times.
  • Since March, there have been 176,805 total cases and 2,852 total deaths in the metro area.
  • Missouri is processing an average of 11,140 tests per day over the past week, and 16% of those have been positive. Illinois is processing an average of 80,144 tests per day over the past week, and 8% of those have been positive.
  • Check out our data dashboard for more.

— Lindsay Toler

5:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 17

The Madison County State’s Attorney announced Thursday he would not use his office to enforce Illinois Gov. Pritzker’s COVID-19 restrictions.

Tom Haine said anyone who violates the governor’s executive orders in Madison County would not be committing a crime, since those orders don’t have a legal basis for prosecution.

He said his office could prosecute individuals for trespassing if they refuse to leave an establishment after being asked to by the business owner.

Washington University School of Medicine director of clinical trials Marci Damiano (left) snaps a selfie after receiving a coronavirus vaccination from nurse practitioner Christy Kay.
Sarah Fentem
Marci Damiano (left), Washington University School of Medicine director of clinical trials, snaps a selfie after receiving a coronavirus vaccination from nurse practitioner Christy Kay.

Eight locations in the BJC HealthCare system began vaccinating workers this week.

The federal government initially sent enough of the Pfizer vaccine to cover about one-third of BJC’s patient-facing workforce. BJC officials expect to use the first shipment of 10,000 doses within two weeks.

Missouri officials are sending the first vaccine doses to health care workers and nursing home staff, and said anyone who wants a vaccination will likely be able to get one by summer.

A board that provides advice to St. Louis’ health director has a new chairperson.

The City of St. Louis Boards of Health and Hospitals on Thursday announced the unanimous selection of Rhonda Belue as the new chairperson. She replaces Will Ross, who will remain on the board.

Belue is a professor and chair of the Health Management and Policy program at St. Louis University’s College for Public Health and Social Justice.

The board provides advice to the city health department. In recent months, it's made suggestions about pandemic restrictions.

According to the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force, there were 121 new daily COVID admissions to member hospitals in the St. Louis area. The seven-day moving average is 117 people.

There are 907 people currently in area hospitals, with 171 people in ICUs and 107 using ventilators. The task force said there were 20 deaths in hospitals, with a seven-day moving average of 22 deaths.

On Wednesday, 106 people were discharged from hospitals. The task force says that 12,942 people have been discharged since the pandemic began.

— Jason Rosenbaum, Sarah Fentem and Eric Schmid

9 a.m. Thursday, Dec. 17

Good morning. The Chesterfield Police Department says it will not enforce St. Louis County’s “Safer At Home” restrictions on businesses, including occupancy restrictions and the indoor dining ban. In a statement released yesterday, the department said it “has no statutory authority to enforce the St. Louis County Health or the St. Louis County Executive order, nor do we intend to do so.” Officers will respond to cases in which a customer refuses to comply with a business owner’s request to wear a mask: "In those instances, the police officers WILL enforce trespassing and/or peace disturbance ordinances, as appropriate," the statement says. Read more from our news partners at 5 on your Side: Chesterfield police will not enforce St. Louis County health orders.

Janitors and groundskeepers at St. Louis University ratified a new contract that includes more sick days, guaranteed PPE and a $15 minimum wage by 2022. The agreement by SEIU Local 1 includes the highest-ever raises for the workers.

And here’s the St. Louis on the Air conversation about vaccine rollout that we told you about yesterday: Vaccine Distribution In St. Louis Raises Many Questions, Challenges.

How is the coronavirus trending locally? Here are the key takeaways:

  • Coronavirus cases are decreasing in the St. Louis region. The metro area has seen about 1,878 new cases per day over the past week, down 2.9% over last week, according to data gathered by the New York Times.
  • Since March, there have been 174,807 total cases and 2,818 total deaths in the metro area.
  • Missouri is processing an average of 10,758 tests per day over the past week, and 16% of those have been positive. Illinois is processing an average of 81,920 tests per day over the past week, and 8% of those have been positive.
  • Check out our data dashboard for more.

— Lindsay Toler

5:55 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 16

Illinois will get roughly half of the COVID-19 vaccinations it originally expected to receive in the next two weeks. The state will now receive about 4.3 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker said other states will experience similar kinds of cuts to their expected shipments. State public health officials didn’t have immediate information as to why the shipment was cut in half.

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson said Wednesday that the state economy continues to rebound after the pandemic left many people unemployed and forced businesses to close their doors or limit capacity.

Parson said that the unemployment rate dropped to 4.4% in November and that the state has recovered 67% of the jobs lost this past spring.

“We are now in the top tier of the United States of America for economic recovery," Parson said.

Parson also emphasized the safety and efficacy of the coronavirus vaccine. He continued to stress the importance of personal responsibility as families may travel for the holidays.

MU Health Care vaccinated its first front-line health care workers against COVID-19 on Wednesday. The doses went to medical workers who have direct patient care responsibilities.

Columbia Mayor Brian Treece called the first vaccinations a literal “shot in the arm” in the community’s fight against the pandemic.

— Eric Schmid and Jaclyn Driscoll

9 a.m. Wednesday, Dec. 16

Good morning. At noon today, we’ll talk with medical experts about the logistics of distributing the coronavirus vaccine in Missouri — and why some health care workers are being left behind in the first round. Have a question about the vaccine? Send an email to St. Louis on the Air at talk@stlpublicradio.org, and we may answer your question on air.

We talked to a woman from Arnold who credits participating in the Pfizer vaccine trial for saving her from contracting COVID-19. Carrie Rayfield Cabral said she experienced mild side effects for a few days. But later she didn’t become ill when the people in her household were exposed to the coronavirus and did get sick. Two shots are required to complete the vaccination process, and for those who can schedule their second booster shot, Cabral has this advice: “Do yourself a favor and get it done on a Friday, at least to make yourself more comfortable in your home and be able to mitigate some of those side effects.” Hear more from our conversation on St. Louis on the Air: Missouri Woman's Vaccine Trial Experience Provides Valuable Lessons.

Reign Restaurant in downtown St. Louis must close after violating COVID-19 restrictions, by order of Dr. Fred Echols, acting director of health. In a letter to the business, Echols said the restaurant had “continued violations” of the rules for social distancing and wearing face masks. Owner Dana Kelly, who is running for mayor of St. Louis, has denied violating the city's rules. Read more from 5 on Your Side: Downtown St. Louis restaurant ordered to close after continued COVID-19 violations, city says.

How is the coronavirus trending locally? Here are the key takeaways:

  • Cases are decreasing in the St. Louis region. The metro area has seen about 1,842 new coronavirus cases per day over the past week, down 10.6% over last week, according to data gathered by the New York Times.
  • Since March, there have been 173,259 total cases and 2,770 total deaths in the metro area.
  • Missouri is processing an average of 12,094 tests per day over the past week, and 16.3% of those have been positive. Illinois is processing an average of 84,952 tests per day over the last week, and 8.6% of those have been positive.
  • Check out our data dashboard for more.

— Lindsay Toler

4:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 15

There’s good news for businesses in the Metro East. The Belleville News-Democrat reports the region’s positivity rate on coronavirus tests fell to 12.7% on Tuesday, nearing a threshold that could mean loosening restrictions on businesses soon.

But St. Louis County restaurants aren’t so fortunate. They’re preparing to do without indoor dining for at least another two weeks. Read more about how restaurants are holding up from reporter Corinne Ruff: St. Louis Chef Gerard Craft Says Many Restaurants Won’t Last The Winter Without Relief.

Justine Petersen is getting a $5 million grant from Wells Fargo to help hard-hit Black-owned businesses obtain loans to stay afloat. The St. Louis Business Journal reports the nonprofit expects to provide loans, on average, of $50,000 to $100,000.

— Corinne Ruff

9 a.m. Tuesday, Dec. 15

Good morning. Yesterday was a historic day: Hospital workers in St. Louis were among the first to receive the coronavirus vaccine. Dr. Amina Akhtar, chief medical officer at Mercy Hospital South, was the first to get the shot. She called the vaccine “a game changer.” Read our story from health reporter Sarah Fentem: 'A Mini Miracle': First Workers In St. Louis Receive Coronavirus Vaccine.

Every two weeks next year, Washington University undergraduate students living on campus will be administered saliva-based coronavirus tests developed by geneticists at the school. Wash U is the only college in the region to produce, administer and analyze its own tests. Read more about how local colleges are preparing for another coronavirus semester from reporter Kayla Drake: College Campuses Prepare For Another Semester Of COVID-19, Plan To Expand Testing.

How is the coronavirus trending locally? Here are the key takeaways:

  • Coronavirus cases are decreasing in the St. Louis region. The metro area has seen about 1,870 new cases per day over the past week, down 5.7% over last week, according to data gathered by the New York Times.
  • Since March, there have been 171,265 total cases and 2,715 total deaths in the metro area.
  • Missouri is processing an average of 14,042 tests per day over the past week, and 16% of those have been positive. Illinois is processing an average of 84,926 tests per day over the past week, and close to 9% of those have been positive.
  • Check out our data dashboard for more.

— Lindsay Toler

Nurse Ben Ojie was among the first in the St. Louis region to receive a coronavirus vaccination. Ojie works works in the COVID-19 unit at Mercy South Hospital in south St. Louis County. Monday, December 14, 2020.
Theo R. Welling / Special to St. Louis Public Radio
Ben Ojie on Monday became among the first in the St. Louis region to receive a coronavirus vaccination. Ojie works as a nurse in the COVID-19 unit at Mercy South Hospital in south St. Louis County.

5:15 p.m. Monday, Dec. 14

Mercy Health gave its first coronavirus vaccinations to health care workers in St. Louis today after receiving the first doses this morning.

Mercy Hospital South has received 3,000 initial doses of the vaccine and chosen 20 workers of different races, ages and job titles to get the first doses to show that it’s important and safe for everyone to get a shot.

The government has shipped more than 50,000 doses of the vaccine to hospitals in Missouri, and millions more are expected in the next two months.

Read our full story: 'A Mini Miracle': First Workers In St. Louis Receive Coronavirus Vaccine

Nichole Boyer, clinical team leader at Mercy South Hospital, receives a coronavirus vaccination on Monday, December 14, 2020. Boyer was among the first in the St. Louis area to receive the vaccine.
Theo R. Welling / Special to St. Louis Public Radio
Nichole Boyer, clinical team leader at Mercy South Hospital, receives a coronavirus vaccination on Monday. Boyer was among the first in the St. Louis area to receive the vaccine.

St. Louis County is ready to receive the COVID-19 vaccine that is being distributed across the country.

County Executive Sam Page said the health department has installed ultra-cold freezers that are necessary to store the Pfizer vaccine.

The post-Thanksgiving spike in coronavirus cases in the St. Louis area has leveled off, but the head of the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force said residents still need to abide by all preventive measures, including wearing masks, social distancing and limiting contact with others.

“We are still at much too high of a level to let off of any of our mitigation strategies,” Dr. Alex Garza said Monday. “Yes, we have plateaued a little bit, but we have plateaued at a very high level.”

A soldier at Fort Leonard Wood died late last week, and while the official cause of death has not been released, the soldier tested positive for COVID-19.

Fort Leonard Wood’s Public Health team tested members of the soldier’s unit and found what military officials are calling “a large number of individuals testing positive for the virus.”

A specific number was not released, as the Department of Defense limits information about coronavirus numbers at military installations, citing national security.

— Jonathan Ahl and Sarah Fentem

9 a.m. Monday, Dec. 14

It’s official: The first doses of the first authorized COVID-19 vaccine are on their way to distribution centers across the country. Missouri will initially receive 51,000 doses of the vaccine from Pfizer, and health care workers will be among the first to receive them. The state expects to vaccinate most health care workers as well as nursing home staff and residents by the end of winter. Read more from health reporter Sarah Fentem: What You Need To Know About The Coronavirus Vaccine Shipping To Missouri This Week.

Transporting the vaccine from Pfizer's facility in Michigan is a major logistical challenge. A new, specially designed package holds 50 pounds of dry ice to keep trays of vaccine vials at the extreme temperature of minus 94 degrees Fahrenheit during shipping. And UPS invented a small label containing a Bluetooth device and three radios to be attached to the packages so they can be closely tracked. Read more from NPR: UPS Executive: Vaccine Shipments Will Reach Distribution Centers Monday Morning.

Have a question about coronavirus or the COVID-19 vaccine you want our newsroom to investigate? We’d love to hear it. Ask us by sending your question through our Curious Louis coronavirus FAQ.

St. Louis County Executive Sam Page is extending the "Safer at Home" order. The restrictions will continue for another two weeks in an effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Page said the number of new cases and hospitalizations is still too high to safely reopen. The order, which was first implemented Nov. 17, calls on county residents to stay home except for essential business and necessities. The order also bans indoor dining at restaurants, a move that created significant pushback and legal wrangling from some restaurant owners.

How is the coronavirus trending locally? Here are the key takeaways:

  • Coronavirus cases are decreasing in the St. Louis region. The metro area has seen about 1,855 new cases per day over the last week, down 9.5% over last week, according to data gathered by the New York Times.
  • Since March, there have been 169,217 total cases and 2,704 total deaths in the metro area.
  • Missouri is processing an average of 14,042 tests per day over the past week, and 16% of those have been positive. Illinois is processing an average of 85,436 tests per day over the past week, and 8.8% of those have been positive.
  • Check out our data dashboard for more.

— Lindsay Toler

5:20 p.m. Friday, Dec. 11

The Missouri Court of Appeals has sided with St. Louis County in a lawsuit challenging a ban on indoor dining put in place to minimize the spread of the coronavirus.

The county no longer allows indoor dining, but it does allow restaurants to serve customers outdoors or by carryout, curbside or delivery.

County Executive Sam Page said officials will continue to have discussions with the restaurant community so indoor dining can resume as soon as it is safe to do so.

“St. Louis County’s indoor dining protocols are based on the latest scientific research and expert advice from the Pandemic Task Force and public health professionals,” Page said. “And they are holding back the spread of COVID-19 throughout the county.”

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson signed the $1.3 billion supplemental budget bill on Friday.

Lawmakers passed the spending plan earlier this month after Parson called them in for a special legislative session to ensure the state had access to additional federal coronavirus relief funding.

“This additional funding will be critical as we continue to respond, recover, and move Missouri forward,” Parson said.

The budget includes funding for several state departments, including elementary and secondary education, social services, health and senior services.

And now, for a bit of Christmas cheer. The St. Louis Board of Aldermen acted Friday to ensure that despite the pandemic, children celebrating Christmas can still receive a visit from Santa Claus.

“Santa has spoken with this Board of Aldermen and various healthcare professionals to determine a plan for best practices for his annual deliveries, and Santa has been self-quarantining with Mrs. Claus and all of the elves; and there have been no cases of COVID-19 at Santa’s workshop and no travel to or from his workshop for the requisite health timeframes,” reads a resolution adopted by the aldermen.

The document goes on to grant Santa permission to enter the homes of children on the “nice” list, as long as they are asleep (to ensure social distancing) and the kids have been following instructions to avoid getting COVID-19 (so they don’t get Santa sick).

There's been federal guidance on the issue, as well: Fauci says Santa Claus has 'innate immunity,' won't be spreading COVID-19 to anyone this Christmas

— Jaclyn Driscoll and Rachel Lippmann

9 a.m. Thursday, Dec. 10

Good morning. The U.S. appears to be on the verge of approving a coronavirus vaccine for distribution after yesterday’s approval from a Food and Drug Administration committee. That encouraging news comes as coronavirus cases spike across the U.S. More than 3,000 people in the U.S. died from the coronavirus in a single day Thursday— more American deaths than on D-Day or 9/11.

An investigation from KCUR reveals that Missouri’s COVID-19 data exaggerated the number of hospital beds available even after doctors said the numbers were wrong. The data, which remained uncorrected for weeks, was used to determine local stay-at-home restrictions. The lack of accurate information adds to the strain for hospitals as they fill with coronavirus patients.

“No one knows there are no beds,” said a Kansas City area nurse who requested anonymity for fear of retaliation, “that we’re in this crisis, and we’re coming to a point where we’re going to be completely overwhelmed.” Read the full investigation from KCUR: 'The Wolf Is At The Door:' How Missouri’s Garbled COVID Data Misled The Public Until It Was Too Late.

How is the coronavirus trending locally? Here are the key takeaways:

  • Coronavirus cases are increasing in the St. Louis region. The metro area has seen about 1937 new cases per day over the last week, up 2.6% over last week, according to data gathered by the New York Times.
  • Since March, there have been 163,653 total cases and 2,645 total deaths in the metro area.
  • Missouri is processing an average of 11,853 tests per day over the last week, and 17% of those have been positive. Illinois is processing an average of 80,407 tests per day over the last week, and 9.5% of those have been positive.
  • Check out our data dashboard for more.

— Lindsay Toler

5:40 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 10

Health care workers and long-term care patients at veterans hospitals in St. Louis and Columbia, Missouri, will be among the first to get the coronavirus vaccine.

The Department of Veterans Affairs announced its preliminary vaccination plans Thursday. The facilities in Columbia and St. Louis were chosen because they have the ability to vaccinate large numbers of people and the super-cold storage facilities required.

“As vaccine supplies increase, additional veterans will receive vaccinations based on factors such as age, existing health problems and other considerations that increase the risk of severe illness or death from COVID-19,” the department said.

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker says medical staff from the Illinois National Guard will arrive at the state veterans’ home in Quincy on Monday.

They will help employees of the home conduct daily health screenings and track data from frequent testing. The facility is currently seeing an outbreak at two of its buildings, with 32 of 293 residents, and 22 staff, testing positive.

Earlier this week, Pritzker dismissed a question about using the National Guard in a support role as a rumor. He apologized at his briefing on Thursday.

Pritzker and his health director, Ngozi Ezike, also again urged Illinois residents to avoid large gatherings during the holidays.

“Mask up, keep your distance, and plan for smaller, more intimate holidays this year with members of your household,” Pritzker said. “It’s the best thing that we can do to show each other that we care.”

The governor also encouraged small businesses in Illinois to apply for a state COVID-19 relief grant. Applications for the Business Interruption Grant program close Dec. 15.

— Rachel Lippmann

9 a.m. Thursday, Dec. 10

Good morning. The U.S. recorded more than 3,000 COVID-19 deaths yesterday, breaking the single-day record. For the first time, the number of new cases per day has eclipsed 200,000 on average. Virtually every state in the U.S. is experiencing a surge in cases. Here’s more from the New York Times: U.S., Breaking a Record, Tops the 3,000 Daily Death Mark.

Meanwhile, Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine is close to receiving approval to be used in the U.S. But will Americans take it? Doctors worry that some African Americans may not get vaccinated because they do not trust the health care system, given the history of medical abuses and deception. African Americans have long experienced racism in doctor’s offices and hospitals, and researchers often made them unknowing test subjects for medical experiments that led to other diseases or death. Read more about the local effort to build trust in the Black community in this story from reporter Andrea Henderson: St. Louis Health Officials Face An Uphill Battle To Persuade Black People To Get The COVID-19 Vaccine.

How is the coronavirus trending locally? Here are the key takeaways:

  • Coronavirus cases are increasing in the St. Louis region. The metro area has seen about 2,060 new cases per day over the past week, up 8.2% over last week, according to data gathered by the New York Times.
  • Since March, there have been 160,368 total cases and 2,568 total deaths in the metro area.
  • Missouri is processing an average of 13,253 tests per day over the past week, and 17% of those have been positive. Illinois is processing an average of 82,146 tests per day over the past week, and less than 10% of those have been positive.
  • Check out our data dashboard for more.

— Lindsay Toler

6:40 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 9

The first doses of a COVID-19 vaccine will arrive in St. Louis this week and will be distributed to hospitals. There won't be enough vaccine for all St. Louis hospital workers in this first shipment, so the hospitals will be tasked with deciding which of their highest-priority workers will receive them, such as intensive care and emergency room staff.

Workers and residents at long-term care facilities could start receiving the vaccine by the end of this month. These facilities all have contracts through national pharmacies to deliver and administer the vaccine, but St. Louis County's high-risk task force will be overseeing the process.

St. Louis County has acquired three more ultra-cold freezers to store the vaccinations and is finalizing an agreement with a local company that will loan the county two more.

There’s a lot of talk right now about hospital capacity. NPR has created a searchable map to see how hospitals are doing in your community. According to the data, about a quarter of hospital beds, on average, in the immediate St. Louis area are occupied by patients with COVID-19. But more than half of all patients in hospitals in Washington, Crawford and Lincoln counties are being treated for the virus. (The data isn’t perfect, as NPR reporter Sean McMinn explains.)

One of those counties above 50%, Lincoln County, now has a mask mandate. Everyone over age 10 must wear a face mask in public. The order goes into effect Friday.

St. Louis University is looking for more people of color and other minorities to join its vaccine trial. Here’s the enrollment information (participants must be at least 18 years old).

Fort Leonard Wood is increasing coronavirus restrictions. The Army installation in the Ozarks has raised its health protection condition level to "Charlie." That means new precautions have been put in place including limiting meetings to 10 or fewer people and prohibiting service members from dining in at restaurants or bars, both on and off base. The Department of Defense does not disclose the number of COVID-19 cases at any military installation, citing national security issues.

Finally, a long read we thought you may enjoy: The Associated Press visited two Missouri churches separated by just 30 miles and a whole world at the same time. But the coronavirus pandemic has brought their pastors together.

— Ryan Delaney, Shahla Farzan and Jonathan Ahl

9 a.m. Wednesday, Dec. 9

Good morning. Some St. Louisans are choosing to drive to Illinois to find faster, cheaper and more consistent coronavirus tests. The Illinois Department of Public Health runs a free, drive-thru testing site in the St. Clair Square mall in Fairview Heights, and there are also multiple private clinics that provide rapid coronavirus testing.

Jeff Jacobs, a special education teacher who lives in the Central West End, said he crosses the Mississippi River to be tested even though it’s a longer drive: “I just won't go back to that one in St. Louis, because it took about two hours to get through the line. It’s worth it to go to Alton, which is even further out of the way.” Read the full story by reporter Eric Schmid: St. Louisans Are Turning To Illinois For Their Coronavirus Testing Needs.

Have you had trouble finding a coronavirus test in Missouri? Have you gone to Illinois to find faster or cheaper testing? Inform our reporting by sending us an email about your experience to feedback@stlpublicradio.org.

How is the coronavirus trending locally? Here are the key takeaways:

  • Coronavirus cases are decreasing in the St. Louis region. The metro area has seen about 1,984 new cases per day over the past week. That's down 1.4% over last week, according to data gathered by the New York Times.
  • Since March, there have been 158,174 total cases and 2,521 total deaths in the metro area.
  • Missouri is processing an average of 15,024 tests per day over the past week, and 17% of those have been positive. Illinois is processing an average of 80,672 tests per day over the last week, and 10% of those have been positive.
  • Check out our data dashboard for more.

— Lindsay Toler

5:20 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 8

St. Louis has secured the facilities needed to store Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine safely, the city’s health director said Tuesday.

“One of the challenges that has come up is the need for super-cold storage,” Dr. Fred Echols told the Board of Aldermen’s coronavirus committee. “We’ve been able to secure super-cold storage units for our facilities to make sure that when a vaccine is available, they’ll be able to property store them so they don’t go to waste.”

Pfizer’s vaccine needs to be stored at minus 70 degrees Celsius. While big hospital facilities like Barnes-Jewish already have those capabilities, smaller facilities like federally qualified health centers may not. Those centers, which serve uninsured and underinsured patients, are critical to the city’s distribution plans.

A federal committee is set to meet Thursday to consider an emergency use authorization for Pfizer’s vaccine. If the request is approved, Echols said the first shipment of vaccines could arrive in St. Louis seven to 10 days later. Read more: Missouri Has A Plan To Administer Coronavirus Vaccine When Available

About half of City of St. Louis employees surveyed said they did not feel sufficiently supported during the pandemic. The most common complaints among the survey’s 378 respondents were a lack of clarity around quarantine policies and little to no enforcement of masking and social distancing requirements. The Board of Aldermen committee on Tuesday saw the results of the survey conducted by board President Lewis Reed.

The Missouri Department of Corrections is installing nearly 1,500 air purifying systems in state prisons and other facilities. The ionizers kill bacteria and viruses, including the coronavirus. The department has reported more than 6,600 coronavirus cases this year, most occurring in prisons.

St. Louis and St. Louis County health departments will maintain 14-day quarantine guidelines for people who have been exposed to the coronavirus. Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced local jurisdictions could shorten quarantines to 10 days if symptoms don't develop. Both the city and county health departments say they are sticking to 14 days for now because of how widespread the virus is in the region currently.

— Kayla Drake and Rachel Lippmann

9 a.m. Tuesday, Dec. 8

Good morning, and happy Tuesday.

Missouri and Illinois are bracing for a surge in coronavirus cases after Thanksgiving gatherings. St. Louis hospitals have not yet seen a surge in coronavirus admissions, though the average number of hospitalizations remains very high. The region’s hospitals are treating around 900 patients with the virus, according to the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force. A steep rise in the number of patients could push hospitals to their limits. Read more: Hospitals In Missouri And Illinois Could Soon See A Thanksgiving-Fueled Coronavirus Surge.

Restaurants are struggling to stay in business while complying with the ban on indoor dining. In St. Clair County, the health department suspended food or liquor licenses for seven bars and restaurants for allowing indoor dining. The restaurants must now submit new plans for takeout and outdoor dining or risk staying closed all month and paying a $1,000 fine. In St. Louis County, restaurants are closed for indoor dining even as their counterparts in the city of St. Louis and surrounding counties allow customers to eat inside. Read about how the county's rules are playing out: St. Louis County COVID Rules Cause Tensions For Restaurants Along Borders.

Photos of a packed Christmas celebration at a church in Ozark, Missouri, have sparked outrage among public health leaders. Clay Goddard, director of the Springfield-Greene County Health Department, said he was “shocked and deeply saddened” by the images of people packed into an auditorium with few correctly wearing masks. "I can’t see those photos without also thinking of the images we’ve all seen of the impossible circumstances our hospitals are battling every day,” he said. Hear more in this episode of Too Much News, our livestreamed weeknight news show: Missouri megachurch on blast for mega gatherings.

How is the coronavirus trending locally? Here are the key takeaways:

  • Coronavirus cases are decreasing in the St. Louis region. The metro area has seen about 1,984 new cases per day over the past week, down 1.4% over last week, according to data gathered by the New York Times.
  • Since March, there have been 158,174 total cases and 2,521 total deaths in the metro area.
  • Missouri is processing an average of 15,024 tests per day over the past week, and 17% of those have been positive. Illinois is processing an average of 80,672 tests per day over the past week, and 10% of those have been positive.
  • Check out our data dashboard for more.

— Lindsay Toler

5:40 p.m. Monday, Dec. 7

Public health officials in Missouri and Illinois expect a surge in coronavirus cases after Thanksgiving gatherings. Health experts had warned against traditional family dinners for the holiday, as the virus is largely spread through small gatherings indoors.

“These next four weeks may be the most crucial month of this entire pandemic,” Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Monday. “We quite literally have very limited leeway in our hospital systems to manage another surge.”

Read our full story: Hospitals in Missouri and Illinois Could Soon See A Thanksgiving-Fueled Coronavirus Surge

The St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force reported 894 hospitalizations of patients with confirmed cases of COVID-19 across its hospital system. Doctors said 187 patients are in intensive care and 117 are on ventilators. Another 80 patients in the hospital likely have COVID-19.

Some Missouri police departments and sheriff’s offices have temporarily closed and relocated inmates because of staffing shortages attributed to COVID-19, the Associated Press reports. The AP said the lobby of the Springfield police station was shut down. There have been several COVID-19 outbreaks in the St. Louis County Police Department, where 108 employees have tested positive for the virus.

St. Louis County Executive Sam Page said Monday that his office continues to monitor the number of coronavirus cases and hospitalizations to determine when indoor dining can resume.

“We hope over the next week or so, we'll have more information on whether we can meet our target of mid-December to relax restrictions on indoor dining in St. Louis County,” Page said. “But we'll have to see how this week goes and if we're trending in the right direction."

Indoor dining continues to be high-risk activity in the St. Louis area, Page said. The county instituted an indoor dining ban last month in an effort to curb the spread of the virus.

St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson said in her Facebook Live briefing Monday that the city has about $100,000 in federal CARES Act money that has not been committed. She said the city will spend all of the CARES Act funding.

St. Clair County officials are urging Metro East restaurants to comply with Illinois restrictions, according to the Belleville News-Democrat.

The call follows increased COVID-19 positivity rates and the implementation of Tier 3 restrictions in Illinois since Nov. 20. The News-Democrat reports that St. Clair County has suspended the licenses of seven restaurants and bars. The restaurants have three days to request a hearing to challenge the suspensions or state how they will comply with the guidelines.

— Chad Davis

9:30 a.m. Monday, Dec. 7

Good morning. Three out of four counties in Missouri and Kansas don’t have a single intensive care unit bed, forcing rural areas to send coronavirus patients to city hospitals, according to an analysis by Kaiser Health News. The problem is exacerbated by a lack of mask wearing by residents in rural communities, which have seen some of the highest rates of COVID-19. “They’re not wearing masks, and yes, that’s putting pressure on our hospitals, which is unfair to our residents that might be denied an ICU bed,” said Dr. Rex Archer, head of the Health Department in Kansas City, Missouri. Read the story: Rural areas send their sickest patients to cities, straining urban hospitals.

St. Louis Alderwoman Megan Ellyia Green says she tested positive for COVID-19. On Twitter, Green said she started experiencing symptoms six days after she was exposed. “Covid is real and it is horrible,” Green said. “I’ve never had body aches like this, chest pains make it hard to sleep, and I can’t drink enough to quench my thirst from the fever. I wish this on no one.”

How is the coronavirus trending locally? Here are the key takeaways:

  • Coronavirus cases are steady in the St. Louis region. The metro area has seen about 2,051 new cases per day over the past week, according to data gathered by the New York Times.
  • Since March, there have been 156,229 total cases and 2,515 total deaths in the metro area.
  • Missouri is processing an average of 15,024 tests per day over the past week, with 17% coming up positive. Illinois is processing an average of 86,174 tests per day over the past week, and 10% of those have been positive.
  • Check out our data dashboard for more.

— Lindsay Toler

5:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 4

Missouri will begin distributing nearly 350,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine in late December. Workers and residents at long-term care facilities and essential health care workers will receive it first, said Dr. Randall Williams, director of the state Department of Health and Senior Services.

By August, the state should be able to give the vaccine to anyone who wants it, Williams said.

The St. Louis County Department of Public Health today again called for anyone who has had close contact with someone who has recently tested positive for the coronavirus to quarantine for 14 days. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shortened its recommended quarantine period to seven to 10 days earlier this week.

A shortened quarantine time “would be especially risky” given current levels of community transmission in St. Louis County and the increased stress on health care providers, county health officials said in a statement.

The St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force reported that the seven-day moving average of hospitalizations remained at the record of 925 reached Wednesday. The task force reported 115 new hospitalizations today. The local hospital system’s available ICU beds are at 87% capacity.

The task force also endorsed guidelines the CDC released today that call for universal masking in indoor spaces outside the home. “The CDC makes no bones about it, that’s what’s necessary to reduce transmission,” Dr. Alex Garza, task force head, said in his daily briefing.

Garza urged the public not to become complacent about the numbers of infections, hospitalizations and deaths.

”We’ve gotten used to saying that people in our region are dying every single day from a virus that we largely know how to slow down and stop,” Garza said. “Whether you’re a policymaker or a parent, a governor or a grandchild, you have the power to fight this battle and ease this burden on our health care workers.”

— Jeremy D. Goodwin

9 a.m. Friday, Dec. 4

Good morning, and TGIF. To start your day off right, here’s an uplifting story about how local restaurants are feeding people in need during the pandemic: Restaurants — Struggling Themselves — Remain Creative Partners In Feeding St. Louis

Our feature story today takes you inside the intensive care unit of St. Luke’s hospital in Chesterfield, where coronavirus patients are so sick that they require nearly constant attention from multiple medical staff, including respiratory therapists, nurses and patient technicians. One nurse told us she’s seen more deaths in the past eight months “than I’ve seen in the past seven years as a nurse altogether.” Read the story from health reporter Sarah Fentem and see the photos from photographer David Kovaluk here: At This Coronavirus-Plagued St. Louis County Hospital, The Pandemic Takes Its Toll

How is the coronavirus trending locally? Here are the key takeaways:

  • Coronavirus cases are decreasing in the St. Louis region. The metro area has seen about 1887 new cases per day over the last week. That's down -15.8 percent over last week, according to data gathered by the New York Times.
  • Since March, there have been 150,095 total cases and 2,403 total deaths in the metro area.
  • Missouri is processing an average of 8,294 tests per day over the last week. 19.9 percent of those have been positive. Illinois is processing an average of 73,877 tests per day over the last week. 10.5 percent of those have been positive.
  • Cases continue to spike in Jefferson County, where the seven-day average of new cases is more than 220 people.
  • Check out our data dashboard for more.

— Lindsay Toler

5 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 3

Missouri is set to receive 51,000 doses of coronavirus vaccine by Dec. 15, but the state health department learned on Thursday that it will receive an additional 64,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine one week later — the same day the state will receive 105,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine.

Missouri has also increased the number of sites able to distribute the vaccine to 21.

“To receive the distribution you have to assure the CDC you can vaccinate that amount of people in 10 days,” said Dr. Randall Williams, the state’s public health director.

With these additional doses, Williams said all long-term care residents and staff, as well as all health care workers, should be vaccinated by the end of January.

An advisory group to the St. Louis health department is informally recommending occupancy limits on businesses.

The Joint Board on Health and Hospitals met on Thursday and did not have a quorum, so it could not make formal recommendations. But it suggested informally that businesses in the city limit their occupancy to 25%of their capacity.

Frederick Echols, St. Louis’ acting health director, is responsible for issuing COVID-19 orders in consultation with Mayor Lyda Krewson. Her spokesman, Jacob Long, said the board will meet again when it has enough members to make formal recommendations.

“They acknowledged that it would be unfair and unsupported by current data to solely target a single industry, like restaurants, for additional restrictions,” Long said. “But given the current COVID-19 situation, they wanted to send a message that people need to change their behavior to help bring our numbers down.”

The St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force reported that the seven-day moving average of hospitalizations is at 925. That comes as there were 113 admissions at area hospitals for COVID-19.

The task force said there are 900 people currently hospitalized at task force hospitals and 186 people in ICUs. It also said that 164 patients were discharged Wednesday.

Illinois’ state-operated coronavirus testing facility is moving from the Jackie Joyner-Kersee center in East St. Louis to the St. Clair Square Mall in Fairview Heights.

Officials moved the site to accommodate increased demand for coronavirus tests in the region.

The Illinois Department of Health will continue to have testing sites in East St. Louis every Sunday and Monday. Coronavirus tests at state-operated sites are open to anyone and do not require an appointment.

— Jaclyn Driscoll, Jason Rosenbaum and Eric Schmid

9 a.m. Thursday, Dec. 3

Happy Thursday. The big news is the announcement that Missouri will use federal CARES funds to hire a Texas company to send medical workers to reinforce overstretched hospitals. Read our full story from reporter Chad Davis here: Missouri Hires Texas Company To Provide Workers For Overburdened Hospitals

To get a better idea of how the health care system is pushed to its limits, Dr. Alex Garza, head of the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force, shared the example of a recent patient at SSM Health’s hospital in Lake St. Louis who had to be flown to Quincy, Illinois, because no ICU beds were available in St. Louis. Listen to the full conversation with Garza on St. Louis on the Air by hitting the “Listen” button at the bottom of this story.

How is the coronavirus trending locally? Here are the key takeaways:

  • Coronavirus cases are decreasing in the St. Louis region. The metro area has seen about 1,858 new cases per day over the last week, down 16.8% over last week, according to data gathered by the New York Times.
  • Since March, there have been 148,125 total cases and 2,356 total deaths in the metro area.
  • Missouri is processing an average of 8,163 tests per day over the past week, and 19% of those have been positive. Illinois is processing an average of 69,642 tests per day over the past week, and 10% of those have been positive.
  • Check out our data dashboard for more.

— Lindsay Toler

5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 2

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson announced help today for Missouri hospitals facing staffing challenges as coronavirus cases continue to climb. The state is entering into a 12-week partnership with health care services company Vizient to deploy up to 760 staff members — including registered nurses, respiratory therapists and certified nurse assistants — to “multiple, geographically dispersed hospitals.”

Parson said the partnership, when fully deployed, will add nearly 600 hospital beds across the state. He will use CARES Act funding to cover the cost through the end of the year, then hospitals will pick up the tab.

St. Louis-area hospitals are at about 96% capacity, Dr. Alex Garza, St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force leader, said on St. Louis on the Air today.

The region’s hospital systems hit a record seven-day moving average of hospitalizations, 925, up from 919 yesterday, which was also a record. During the regular task force briefing, Garza said hospitals are being more conservative about whom they admit and for how long. He said if patients have a reasonable chance to do well at home, they’re discharged with home monitoring and instructions to come back if their symptoms get worse.

“The reason for that is we have precious little capacity now, and we’re reserving that capacity now for people that we are absolutely sure are going to need a bed in the hospital,” Garza said.

You can now be fined in Edwardsville for not wearing a mask. The Belleville News-Democrat reported that the city council passed an ordinance Tuesday night that allows local police to fine violators $25 to $250. Business owners and managers can be fined $50 to $500 for not enforcing the mandate.

— Corinne Ruff

9 a.m. Wednesday, Dec. 2

Good morning. There continues to be serious pushback against St. Louis County’s ban on indoor dining at restaurants. Last night, the St. Louis County Council voted 4-3 to approve a resolution that overturns the ban. The resolution is non-binding, which means it doesn’t have the force of law, but one council member said they are consulting with outside lawyers.

The St. Louis County Health Department suspended permits for four restaurants yesterday and gave a fifth restaurant notice of suspension. Each restaurant had already received three written warnings. Read more in our story from political reporter Jason Rosenbaum: After Page’s COVID-19 Restrictions, Missouri Lawmakers Take Aim At Local Mandates.

COVID-19-related deaths in Missouri topped 4,000 in updated data released by the state Tuesday. In Missouri, there have been 19,716 new cases, including 60 deaths, reported in the last seven days. As hospitals fill, one nearby hospital system said they had to spend eight hours this month finding an available bed for just one patient. Read more in this story via KCUR: Coronavirus Deaths in Missouri Top 4,000 As Hospitals Worry About Capacity.

The U.S. is averaging about 1,500 COVID-19 deaths per day — or about one death per minute. And the situation likely will get much worse this winter, based on new research from Washington University. Read more in our story from reporter Shahla Farzan: COVID-19 Cases In U.S. Could Reach 20 Million By January, Wash U Researchers Report.

How is the coronavirus trending locally? Here are the key takeaways:

  • Coronavirus cases are decreasing in the St. Louis region. The metro area has seen about 1903 new cases per day over the last week, down 13.9% over last week, according to data gathered by the New York Times.
  • Since March, there have been 145,947 total cases and 2,328 total deaths in the metro area.
  • Missouri is processing an average of 8,163 tests per day over the last week, and almost 20% percent of those have been positive. Illinois is processing an average of 72,792 tests per day over the last week, and 10.5% of those have been positive.
  • Check out our data dashboard for more.

— Lindsay Toler

5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 1

Missouri will start receiving COVID-19 vaccine doses around Dec. 15, state health officials said Tuesday. The Department of Health and Senior Services expects to get around 50,000 doses of Pfizer’s vaccine in the coming weeks as long as the FDA approves the drugmaker’s emergency use authorization.

The first people expected to be vaccinated are health care workers, long-term care facility staff and nursing home residents, according to the state’s COVID-19 vaccination plan. The prospect of vaccine distribution comes as the state passed 4,000 deaths from the coronavirus and 300,000 confirmed cases.

And cases and hospitalizations continue to rise in the St. Louis region. The Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force reported the rolling seven-day moving average of hospitalizations grew to a record 919 on Tuesday. In the Metro East, nearly 85% of the region’s hospital beds were in use.

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker said he won’t be lifting statewide restrictions for another couple of weeks as state health officials monitor the effects of Thanksgiving gatherings on the virus’ spread.

“We know we aren’t going to see the bulk of the impact in our data quite yet,” he said during his daily press briefing Tuesday. Pritzker said the state can avoid another stay-at-home order if it can blunt the surge in cases it’s seen in recent weeks.

The pandemic is affecting schools in the region in many different ways. Fewer substitute teachers are willing to work right now, causing a shortage for many districts in the Metro East. In some cases, principals are stepping in or teachers are using their planning time to cover classrooms.

For students, the prolonged pandemic is causing more stress, anxiety and depression. And snow days might be a thing of the past for some St. Louis area schools. They’ll switch to virtual learning instead of having the day off for winter weather.

Eric Schmid

8:45 a.m. Tuesday, Dec. 1

Good morning. It’s the first day of December. Is it hard to believe 2020 is almost over?

St. Louis County is cracking down on restaurants that still have indoor dining, which has been banned for weeks in an effort to prevent coronavirus spread. Five restaurants received letters threatening to revoke their operating permits and liquor licenses. Read more from KMOV: 5 St. Louis County restaurants warned: Obey health orders or lose operating permits.

This year has woken up many St. Louis-area residents to the fact that easy access to beautiful outdoor places is truly essential. “People have come to realize that green spaces are a necessity and not an amenity,” said executive director of Tower Grove Park, Bill Reininger, on yesterday’s episode of St. Louis on the Air. Hear the entire conversation about greenspaces during the pandemic here: Park Use Soars In St. Louis As Pandemic Drags On.

A COVID-19 saliva test from the Washington University School of Medicine is helping the Special School District of St. Louis County. The new test uses small amounts of both spit and chemicals to prepare the samples, so it’s not as vulnerable to supply chain shortages that have plagued other types of testing. These photos from St. Louis Post-Dispatch photographer Christian Gooden show employees submitting the test, which is reportedly 99% accurate: Photos: Washington U. School of Med. deploys COVID saliva testing.

How is the coronavirus trending locally? Here are the key takeaways:

  • Coronavirus cases are decreasing in the St. Louis region. The metro area has seen about 2,013 new cases per day over the last week, down more than 8% over last week, according to data gathered by the New York Times.
  • Since March, there have been 144,285 total cases and 2,289 total deaths in the metro area.
  • Missouri is processing an average of 12,044 tests per day over the last week, and 18% of those have been positive. Illinois is processing an average of 72,528 tests per day over the last week, and 10% percent of those have been positive.
  • Numbers are spiking in Jefferson County, which has seen more than 860 cases in the last week — the most since March.

— Lindsay Toler

5:20 p.m. Monday, Nov. 30


St. Louis-area hospitals are near their capacity and about a week away from having no beds available for coronavirus patients.

The St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force reported Monday that 961 coronavirus-positive patients are hospitalized, the largest number since the pandemic started.

At the current rate of admissions, area hospitals will run out of beds for COVID-19 patients by Dec. 8, unless hospitals cancel other procedures, in which case they will be full by Christmas.

Free mobile COVID-19 testing sites are headed to the Metro East as part of the Illinois Department of Public Health’s effort to control the spread of the coronavirus.

Anyone can be tested, regardless of symptoms. The Metro East mobile sites and dates are:

Quad City/Mt. Nebo Complex, 1634 7th St., Madison, Dec. 1-2
Monroe County Annex Building, 901 Illinois Ave., Waterloo, Dec. 3-4
4601 State St., East St. Louis, Dec. 6
Macedonia Baptist Church, 1400 E. Broadway, East St. Louis, Dec. 6

Each location will operate 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. More information is available at http://www.dph.illinois.gov/testing/mobile-testing-sites.

For the month of December, Missourians will once more receive the maximum Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program amount for their household’s size.

The USDA approved Missouri’s request for the additional SNAP help because of the pandemic. More than 360,000 Missouri households receive the food aid.

— Jonathan Ahl

9 a.m. Monday, Nov. 30

Welcome back! We hope you had a safe Thanksgiving holiday.

Local hospitals are strained even as the nation prepares for a post-Thanksgiving surge in coronavirus cases. The St. Louis region keeps beating its own record for the number of people hospitalized with the coronavirus. According to the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force, hospitals here are using almost 90% of intensive care beds to care for current patients. Read more from our news partners at 5 On Your Side: Missouri virus hospitalizations continue to strain hospitals.

The St. Louis Area Foodbank gave out hundreds of turkeys and holiday meal boxes in downtown St. Louis to families in need last week. As businesses close and unemployment rises, the food bank says it is distributing 5 million meals per month — up from the 3.1 million meals it distributed before the pandemic. Read more from reporter Andrea Y. Henderson: St. Louis Area Food Pantries Provide Food To More Families During Coronavirus Pandemic

Drag performer and activist Michael Shreves died of COVID-19 on Saturday. Shreves, who performed as Michelle McCausland, was part of the 1984 legal challenge that led courts to overturn St. Louis’ law against “masquerading,” or being in public while wearing clothes of another gender. Read his obituary in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Michael Shreves, groundbreaking St. Louis drag performer, dies at 61.

How is the coronavirus trending locally? Here are the key takeaways:

  • Cases are decreasing in the St. Louis region. The metro area has seen about 2,031 new coronavirus cases per day over the last week. That's down 11.5% over last week, according to data gathered by the New York Times.
  • Since March, there have been 141,871 total cases and 2,275 total deaths in the metro area.
  • Missouri is processing an average of 10,701 tests per day over the last week; 18% of those have been positive. Illinois is processing an average of 76,862 tests per day over the last week; about 10% of those have been positive.
  • Check out our data dashboard for more.

— Lindsay Toler

5:35 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 25

The head of the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force says the surge of coronavirus cases that’s expected to follow the Thanksgiving holiday will “overwhelm” the region’s hospitals.

“We are at capacity now,” Dr. Alex Garza said in his briefing Wednesday. “So we have begun talking about crisis standards of care, which are guides for our caregivers to ethically deliver the most amount of care for the most amount of people. We cannot just create capacity overnight. It will overwhelm our hospitals.”

Garza pleaded with people who are still planning to travel or gather in large groups to change their plans.

“I know a lot of people have taken this to heart and have limited their Thanksgiving dinners and gatherings,” he said. “But there’s way too many people who have said they are going to travel or are traveling.”

St. Louis and St. Louis County both sent out emergency alerts on Wednesday asking residents to limit holiday gatherings to members of their immediate household, and to limit travel.

Three months after adopting, then immediately rescinding, a mask mandate, the Board of Trustees of the Jefferson County Health Department has voted to require anyone over the age of 10 to wear a mask when inside most public places in the county.

The trustees adopted the latest public health order Wednesday by an 3-2 vote. It takes effect just after midnight Friday and will be in place until Dec. 27. Further restrictions, including limits on indoor dining, are possible if the mask mandate does not bring cases down.

Coronavirus cases are exploding in Jefferson County. The most recently available data show almost 1,500 new cases in the second full week of November, compared to 367 cases in the second full week of October.

This will be our last blog update until after the Thanksgiving weekend. We wish everyone a safe holiday. Wash your hands, social distance and wear a mask. We will see you Monday morning.

— Rachel Lippmann

9 a.m. Wednesday, Nov. 25

Good morning. Only one out of 100 St. Louis County residents had an active case of COVID-19 from August to October, according to a recent survey from the Institute of Public Health at Washington University. The study also found that Black county residents were more than twice as likely to have contracted COVID-19 when compared to white residents. Hear the full conversation about the study from St. Louis on the Air: Majority Of St. Louis County Residents Still Susceptible To COVID-19.

The St. Louis County Department of Public Health sent letters to dozens of bars ordering them to comply with the indoor dining ban. Bar owner Kathy Collins told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch she’s keeping Ashby Pub in St. Ann open: “If we close this time, there won’t be another opening, ever.” Read the full story from the Post-Dispatch: St. Louis County has issued dozens of cease-and-desist letters to restaurants flouting county health order

How is the coronavirus trending locally? Here are the key takeaways:

  • Coronavirus cases are decreasing in the St. Louis region. The metro area has seen about 2,211 new cases per day in the past week. That's down about 6% over last week, according to data gathered by the New York Times.
  • Since March, there have been 132,624 total cases and 2,216 total deaths in the metro area.
  • Missouri is processing an average of 13,468 tests per day over the past week; about 18% of those have been positive. Illinois is processing an average of 90,154 tests per day over the past week; about 10% of those have been positive.
  • Check out our data dashboard for more.

— Lindsay Toler

5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 24

All bars, nightclubs and restaurants in St. Charles County must close by 11 p.m., starting Wednesday. The announcement from the county’s health department comes a day before Thanksgiving eve, one of the busiest nights of the year at many establishments.

The order has the support of St. Charles County Executive Steve Ehlmann, who has opposed mask mandates and other public health restrictions in the county since the pandemic began.

“Other jurisdictions in the area have similar orders in place, and we need to make certain that St. Charles County is not a magnet for those who want to stay out late and party in groups,” Ehlmann said in a press release. Over the past two weeks, the county health department has reported more than 5,000 new coronavirus cases, nearly a quarter of all the cases reported in St. Charles County since the pandemic began.

The St. Louis County Council has added its voice to the groups calling on Gov. Mike Parson to issue a mask mandate in Missouri. The council adopted a nonbinding resolution Tuesday that cited a recent St. Louis University study showing that local mandates slowed the spread of the virus over the summer. Medical providers and St. Louis-area nursing home and health care workers have made similar demands of Parson in recent weeks.

Parson has refused to issue a statewide order, saying mask mandates should be up to local governments.

Missouri has launched a website with information on the latest coronavirus vaccine developments. The site, announced Tuesday by Parson, aims to dispel misinformation about the safety of potential vaccines.

“Safety is not being sacrificed, and it’s important for Missourians to understand this,” Parson said in a press release.

Health care workers, essential workers and people in high-risk populations will be the first in Missouri to qualify for the vaccine. The state Department of Health and Senior Services expects vaccine doses to arrive in December.

Thanksgiving is around the corner, and people are trying to figure out how to celebrate safely during this pandemic. Some are forgoing large family gatherings and buying smaller turkeys, while others are ditching the traditional meal altogether. Read more in our story from reporter Kayla Drake: Pandemic Forces St. Louisans To Find New Ways To Celebrate Thanksgiving

— Rachel Lippmann and Kayla Drake

9 a.m. Tuesday, Nov. 24

Good morning. St. Louis and Kansas City have had mask mandates in place for months, and smaller Missouri cities are starting to follow suit. Rolla will require masks in all public places starting Friday after seeing coronavirus cases double and deaths increase significantly in the past six weeks. The ICU in Rolla’s only hospital has been full with COVID-19 patients for 10 days. Read more in our story from reporter Jonathan Ahl: Rolla Enacts Mask Mandate As Coronavirus Cases Surge And Overwhelm Hospital

Washington voted to require masks last night, and Joplin has also issued a mask mandate — its second since the start of the pandemic. But smaller towns aren’t following the cities’ lead. In an interview with the Joplin Globe, Carl Junction Mayor Mark Powers says his town’s residents “don’t want” a mask mandate: “We all kind of believe in personal responsibility.”

How is the coronavirus trending in the St. Louis area? Here are the key takeaways:

  • The region saw about 2,207 new cases per day over the past week. That's down 6.4% over last week, according to data gathered by the New York Times.
  • Since March, there have been 130,197 total cases and 2,160 total deaths in the St. Louis metro area.
  • Missouri is processing an average of 15,369 tests per day over the past week; about 18% of those have been positive. Illinois is processing an average of 91,046 tests per day over the past week, with more than 10% positive.
  • Jefferson County is seeing a spike in new cases. The county has had 550 new cases in the past week, the second-highest increase since March.
  • Check out our data dashboard for more.

— Lindsay Toler

5:25 p.m. Monday, Nov. 23

St. Louis County health officials say the results of a new survey show the region remains highly vulnerable to the coronavirus.

The county used nearly $2 million in federal funding to conduct the survey with the help of the Institute of Public Health at Washington University. Between mid-August and mid-October, more than 1,300 residents received a test for either an active COVID-19 infection or antibodies. The results showed that in that time period, about 1.2% of the county’s population had an active infection, and about 5% showed antibodies.

“The fact that only about 5% of residents have antibodies to COVID implies that the vast majority of people in the region are still susceptible to COVID-19,” said Dr. Elvin Geng, an infectious disease researcher at Wash U.

The numbers match up with what the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force has been seeing, said Dr. Alex Garza, head of the task force.

“As the cases increase, that number will increase,” Garza said. “How fast and how much is still a question left to be answered.”

The seven-day average of new coronavirus cases in St. Louis County is the fifth highest since March.

The task force reported 881 hospitalizations of confirmed COVID-19 positive patients across its hospital system. Doctors said 170 patients are in intensive care, and 88 are on ventilators. Another 153 patients in the hospital likely have COVID-19.

Garza said the region’s hospitals discharged 85 patients Sunday. He said task force members have been discussing how to increase hospital capacity with the Missouri Hospital Association and state officials.

“We’re looking at a couple different options, whether that is bringing in staff from outside of the area to help staff units that we currently have closed right now … all the way up to scaling up to some sort of larger venue where we’d be able to take care of patients,” Garza said.

St. Louis officials are discussing whether to seek assistance from the National Guard or the military if hospitals are overrun, Mayor Lyda Krewson said Monday during a Facebook Live briefing.

“We’re coming up on a weekend here where a lot of people want to be getting together with friends and family, and if we can’t persuade people not to do that, we are likely by Christmas to be even worse than it is today,” Krewson said.

Wash U will receive $2.28 million in grant funding from the National Institutes of Health to expand coronavirus testing to underserved communities. The University of Missouri-Kansas City will receive $1.9 million from the NIH.

The St. Louis Cardinals community foundation, Cardinals Care, will host its annual Winter Warm-Up fundraising event online. Organizers moved the event online because of the coronavirus pandemic. The online fundraiser will run Jan. 16-18.

The organization also will cancel the 2021 Cardinals Caravan, which usually travels to cities throughout the Midwest.

— Rachel Lippmann and Chad Davis

9 a.m. Monday, Nov. 23

Good morning. There’s more good news from medical researchers. Another potential vaccine, this one from the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca, is testing as highly effective at stopping people from developing coronavirus. This version is cheaper and easier to store than the vaccines currently under development by Pfizer and Moderna. Here’s more from the Associated Press: AstraZeneca: COVID-19 vaccine shown to be ‘highly effective.’

Social distancing may protect nursing home residents from exposure to coronavirus, but it also makes them more lonelier. An October survey by the nonprofit Altarum Institute found that only 5% of nursing home residents had visitors three or more times per week. Before the pandemic, more than 50% did. Three-quarters of respondents also said they’ve felt lonelier during the pandemic. Find more in our story from reporter Chad Davis: Families Fear Nursing Home Residents Will Face Two Crises: The Coronavirus And Loneliness.

How is the coronavirus trending locally? Here are the key takeaways:

  • Coronavirus cases are increasing in the St. Louis region. The metro area has seen about 2,277 new cases per day over the past week. That's up 9.3% over the week before, according to data gathered by the New York Times.
  • Since March, there have been 123,803 total cases and 2,140 total deaths in the metro area.
  • Missouri has processed an average of 12,011 tests per day over the last week; almost 20% of those have been positive. Illinois has processed an average of 86,098 tests per day over the past week; about 11% of those have been positive.
  • St. Charles County had 15 deaths over the past week, the most since March.
  • Check out our data dashboard for more.

— Lindsay Toler

7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 20

A St. Louis County judge has denied a request by local restaurant owners to temporarily block the county’s new ban on indoor dining. Restaurants including Bartolino’s South have been openly defying the public health order that started on Tuesday and lasts for the next month.

St. Louis County Executive Sam Page has said the restrictions, including the ban on indoor dining and other measures, are necessary to reduce the spread of the coronavirus as hospitals near capacity.

ICUs in most hospitals in the St. Louis region’s four largest health systems are at around 90% capacity, and some units are completely full, Dr. Alex Garza, head of the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force, said Friday.

In an effort to relieve Barnes-Jewish Hospital, St. Louis Children’s Hospital is now treating adult patients with COVID-19 in both its emergency room and ICU.

The hospital is admitting more children weekly with the coronavirus than since the pandemic began.

The only hospital in Quincy, Illinois, ran out of available critical care beds on Friday, according to the Adams County Health Department's COVID-19 Dashboard. Blessing Hospital confirmed that its ICU was full, WGEM reported.

— Brian Heffernan

9 a.m. Friday, Nov. 20

Good morning. It’s Friday, so let’s start with some good news: Researchers are making major progress toward producing a vaccine against the coronavirus. Both Pfizer and Moderna announced that their COVID-19 vaccines are 95% effective.

“This is an amazing accomplishment in and of itself,” said Michael Kinch, associate vice chancellor at Washington University in St. Louis, on Thursday’s episode of St. Louis on the Air. “I really do think this will be compared with the Apollo space program in the future.” Listen to his perspective on the vaccine’s development and the logistics of distributing it nationwide: Vaccine Delivery And Distribution Present New Challenges

Hospitals here are at about 90% capacity, and there’s serious concern about staffing levels. Health care workers are burning out, quitting or getting sick and unable to come to work. Hospital systems now have a hard choice to make: cancel elective surgery procedures and free up staff for coronavirus patients, or continue elective surgeries to stay financially stable. Read more from health reporter Sarah Fentem: The Coronavirus Spikes In St. Louis, But Only Some Hospitals Cancel Elective Surgeries

A Missouri public health worker's story is going viral for sharing the backlash she faces for trying to prevent coronavirus spread. Amber Elliott, the outgoing director of the St. Francois County Health Center, talked to the Washington Post about threats people have made against her and her family: “I know it’s my job to be out front talking about the importance of public health — educating people, keeping them safe. Now it kind of scares me.” Read the full story: Voices from the Pandemic: ‘This is how we treat each other? This is who we are?’

How is the coronavirus trending locally? Here are the key takeaways:

  • Coronavirus cases are increasing in the St. Louis region. The metro area has seen about 2,316 new cases per day over the last week. That's up 13% over last week, according to data gathered by the New York Times.
  • Since March, there have been 121,196 total cases and 2,105 total deaths in the metro area.
  • Missouri is processing an average of 11,829 tests per day over the last week; 20.8% of those have been positive. Illinois is processing an average of 85,862 tests per day over the last week; 11.6% of those have been positive.
  • In Illinois, Madison County is averaging more than six deaths per day, the highest rate since March.
  • Check out our data dashboard for more.

— Lindsay Toler

6 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 19

St. Louis County will distribute more than $3 million in federal relief money to restaurants and other small businesses hurt by the pandemic. County businesses with 25 or fewer full-time employees are eligible to apply for the $5,000 one-time grants beginning Monday.

The announcement follows an outcry and lawsuit from restaurant owners in the county, protesting restrictions put in place earlier this week.

The coronavirus continues to spread at a breakneck pace in Missouri. The combination of community transmission, colder weather and “COVID-19 fatigue” means that people are now more likely than ever to catch the virus, said the state’s public health director, Dr. Randall Williams.

Gov. Mike Parson said he would extend the state of emergency until March 2021 but will not implement any statewide restrictions or a mask mandate. Instead, he urged local leaders to enact appropriate restrictions for their areas.

“As many people out there would like to say it’s government’s responsibility, it’s not,” Parson said. “It’s our responsibility as citizens of this great state to take it upon ourselves to do the right thing.”

Hours later, officials in Franklin County announced a mask mandate for the first time since the pandemic began. Beginning at 12:01 a.m. Friday, people age 10 and older will be required to wear masks in public indoor spaces in the county.

Residents found in violation of the order could be fined up to $15, while businesses could be fined up to $100, according to a post on the county’s Facebook page.

Franklin County officials say an exponential rise in coronavirus cases has the potential to overwhelm medical resources. In the past 10 days, more than 800 county residents have tested positive for the virus.

Religious congregations in St. Louis County are adapting to reduced capacity for their services this week. Bishop Deon Johnson from the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri said the diocese had already put a hold on large in-person church services.

“People are tired of virtual everything at this point,” Johnson said. “But the other part of it is that I think more people are recognizing that it allows us to be a lot more connected than we have been in the past.”

Read our full story: Faith Groups In St. Louis Region Continue Virtual and Social Distanced Services As COVID Cases Spike

— Brian Heffernan

9 a.m. Thursday, Nov. 19

Good morning! Thanksgiving is a week from today. Here’s some really nice advice on how to rethink how you spend the holiday: How To Cancel Your Holiday Plans With Love.

We talked to families trying to remotely monitor their loved ones in nursing homes. A new law allows cameras in residents’ rooms, but the logistics of installing cameras in nursing homes during a pandemic have proven challenging, especially with limitations on visitors and contractors entering facilities. Read more in our story by reporter Shahla Farzan: Some St. Louis Families Face Unexpected Challenges Setting Up Nursing Home Cameras.

An update from yesterday: A group of south St. Louis County restaurants officially submitted their class-action lawsuit claiming the county government doesn’t have the authority to halt indoor dining. About 20 restaurants signed on to the suit, including Syberg’s, Helen Fitzgerald’s and Sam’s Steakhouse. Find a copy of the lawsuit in our updated story: St. Louis County Restaurants Defy Public Health Order, File Suit Against Page.

In the Metro East, where indoor dining has been banned since October, four restaurants received tickets from the Illinois State Police: Fast Eddie’s Bon-Air, two The Fainting Goat locations and Washy’s Saloon. None has paid fines because the county state’s attorneys declined to prosecute, according to our news partners at the Belleville News-Democrat.

How is the coronavirus trending locally? Here are the key takeaways:

  • Coronavirus cases are increasing in the St. Louis region. The metro area has seen about 2,353 new cases per day over the past week. That's up 29.2% over last week, according to data gathered by the New York Times.
  • Since March, there have been 117,150 total cases and 2,068 deaths in the metro area.
  • Missouri is processing an average of 12,614 tests per day over the past week, and 22% of those have been positive. Illinois is processing an average of 84,454 tests per day over the past week, and 12.5% of those have been positive.
  • Check out our data dashboard for more.

— Lindsay Toler

9 a.m. Wednesday, Nov. 18

Welcome back! Today is the official restart of the St. Louis Public Radio coronavirus blog. Check back every weekday for regular updates about how the region is responding. Click the buttons at the top to toggle between our COVID-19 dashboard, which tracks the case counts in our region, and the Curious Louis FAQ, where we answer your questions about living through our first pandemic winter.

St. Louis County businesses are adjusting to the new restrictions that went into effect Tuesday, including a ban on indoor dining in restaurants and a 25% capacity limit for other businesses. The change is particularly noticeable in places along the county’s border with St. Louis, which allows indoor dining. One example is the Delmar Loop entertainment district, which is split nearly in half between two different sets of restrictions. Read more in this story from reporter Kayla Drake: Businesses Along St. Louis County’s Borders Fear New Limits Will Drive Customers Away

Some restaurant owners are suing St. Louis County to stop the restriction on dine-in service. Bartolino’s South, the south county Italian restaurant spearheading the lawsuit, is defying the new health order by allowing indoor dining. Last night, Jefferson County Sheriff Dave Marshak made waves when he tweeted a picture from Bartolino’s suggesting he’d dined inside. Read more about the planned lawsuit, which hasn’t been filed, from business reporter Corinne Ruff: Dozens Of Restaurants To Sue St. Louis County Executive Over Indoor Dining Ban

How is the coronavirus trending locally? Here are the key takeaways:

  • Coronavirus cases are increasing in the St. Louis region. The metro area has seen about 2,353 new cases per day over the last week. That's up about 29% over last week, according to data gathered by the New York Times.
  • Since March, there have been 117,150 total cases and 2,068 total deaths in the metro area.
  • Missouri is processing an average of 12,614 tests per day over the past week. About 22% of those have been positive. Illinois is processing an average of 84,454 tests per day over the past week. Just over 12% of those have been positive.
  • Check out our data dashboard for more.

Have a suggestion for the blog? I’d love to hear it. Send us an email at feedback@stlpublicradio.org.

— Lindsay Toler

Send questions and comments about this story to feedback@stlpublicradio.org.