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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

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

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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.