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Government, Politics & Issues

St. Louis County To Reinstate Coronavirus Restrictions On Tuesday

St. Louis County Executive Sam Page announced new restrictions to curb the spread of the coronavirus on Friday morning, Nov. 13, 2020. Page's order, which bans indoor dining and large gatherings and limits capacity in businesses to 25%, came hours after the St. Louis region passed the milestone of 2,000 deaths from COVID-19.
David Kovaluk
/
St. Louis Public Radio
St. Louis County Executive Sam Page on Friday announced new restrictions to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Page's order bans indoor dining and large gatherings in the county and reduces capacity in businesses to 25%. It came hours after the St. Louis region passed the milestone of 2,000 COVID-19 deaths.

Updated at 3:40 p.m. Nov. 13 with comments from St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson

St. Louis County has reinstated restrictions on gatherings, businesses and dining, as the region faces a significant uptick in coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and even deaths.

County officials are calling the new rules “safer at home,” as opposed to the “stay at home” orders from the spring.

The new rules, which take effect 12:01 a.m. Tuesday, require:

  • Anyone over the age of 5 to wear a mask in public.
  • Bars and restaurants to no longer offer indoor dining.
  • Businesses, gyms and religious institutions to operate at no more than 25% capacity, down from 50%.
  • All gatherings to be limited to 10 or fewer people.
  • Club teams to submit plans to the county’s health department, though youth sports tied to schools can continue to play.

“I wish this wasn't where we had to go, but it is,” said County Executive Sam Page at his press briefing Friday. “The virus continues to rage across our county, and our community.”

The announcement came on the day the region passed 2,000 deaths.

That threshold is just the latest data point suggesting the winter will be a harsh one, a grim prospect as the pandemic reaches its eighth month.

St. Louis will not follow suit. Mayor Lyda Krewson announced Thursday night that gatherings will now be limited to 10 people, but she issued no additional restrictions.

Krewson said Friday the city’s coronavirus numbers are serious but not as severe as the rest of the metro area's.

“While the city of St. Louis has too many cases, for sure, our rate of new cases per 100,000 people is much less than the surrounding counties,” she said.

The mayor said the city health department would continue reviewing the data, but for now, businesses and restaurants will see no further restrictions.

During a briefing with members of the St. Louis Regional Chamber, health officials from St. Louis and surrounding counties stressed that limiting private gatherings can greatly reduce the rapid spread of the coronavirus.

But Spring Schmidt, co-director of the St. Louis County Department of Public Health, said businesses like bars and restaurants are still an issue.

“Those activities that foster that close contact, especially when you remove your mask to eat or drink is a problem, and we do see those levels of transmission,” she said.

Schmidt urged businesses to come up with ways of delivering products and services without contact — such as conducting online meetings or making curbside deliveries. If virtual services aren’t an option, she suggests creating barriers, distance and airflow to reduce risk.

Now small-business owners are having to make adjustments that will limit their business and potentially mean laying off employees — again.

Qui Tran, owner of Mai Lee in Brentwood and Nudo House in the Delmar Loop and Creve Coeur, said the new restrictions mean he will have to close indoor seating at some restaurants but not others.

Tran said he’s not upset with the new county restrictions themselves, but with the fact that they could have been avoided if people had worn masks and kept their distance from one another.

“As a business owner, I’m always thinking about my employees — how to keep everything afloat, they have families to take care of — how to keep everyone safe, how to keep the public safe from us as well,” he said. “So it’s just frustrating that as business owners we’re constantly doing that, and then people out here, they don’t even think about that. All they think about is themselves and they’re not considerate of others.”

He worries that without any financial aid on the way for small businesses, many restaurants — that are already operating at a loss — will be forced to shut down permanently this winter.

“It’s just emotionally draining right now,” he said. “What do we do with our employees? We have to again lay them off. We have to say, ‘Hey, we don't have anything for you to do right now.’ I mean, it’s just a tough situation all the way around.”

Galen Bingham, owner of a Creve Coeur franchise location of Menchie’s Frozen Yogurt, said constant changes in restrictions this year have made it really hard to attract employees, advertise and keep fresh products stocked.

“I wish we had done the right thing all along,” he said. “I’d rather we just go ahead and take our medicine, get healthy and then open back up as a country.”

For months, Galen has only offered takeout and outdoor seating. He had hoped to open up indoor seating when it began getting really cold. Without that option, he wonders if people will make the effort to support small businesses like his.

“My concern is now we’re heading into the winter months where it’s not going to be as pleasant to sit outside. And with the tone of [Page’s] restriction really being for people to stay at home unless it’s absolutely essential — frozen yogurt rarely makes the essentials list. So will my guests remember to think of us?”

Page said he knows people are tired of the pandemic and of the restrictions.

“This is where we are. We’re here in part because of virus fatigue,” he said.

But Page emphasized that these restrictions are not as harsh as the spring’s and encouraged residents to find a close group of 10 people they can safely interact with — masks and social distancing still required.

The other big exception is the continuance of school. The new restrictions do not impede districts’ options, but schools across the region are also seeing increases in cases and quarantines.

The orders will continue for an indefinite period.

“I have a lot of people tell me I’m done with this virus,” Page said. “And I can only say this virus is not done with us. ”

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