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Health, Science, Environment

Missouri, St. Louis Region See More New Coronavirus Cases As Restrictions Ease

MERS Goodwill stores closed fitting rooms and extended its return policy to two weeks. The store also marked the floors with arrows to direct the flow of shoppers and reduce congestion between the clothing racks. 05/18/20
File Photo | David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio
A MERS Goodwill employee walks the store soon after the business reopened in May.

The St. Louis region saw an average of 142 new coronavirus cases per day in the week ending June 11, up 29% from the previous week, according to data compiled by St. Louis Public Radio.

Missouri had an average 234 new cases each day, an 11% increase.

But that rise in daily COVID-19 cases hasn’t stopped local and state officials from lifting more restrictions on businesses and gatherings.

On Friday, St. Louis County Executive Sam Page said all businesses would be able to re-open with occupancy limits beginning Monday. St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson said large venues such as banquet halls would be able to serve crowds at 50% occupancy if they maintain social distancing requirements and 100% occupancy in July. 

Their decisions came a day after Missouri Gov. Mike Parson announced he would drop all coronavirus-related restrictions next week.

Public health officials expected the number of cases to go up as businesses started seeing customers. The coronavirus pandemic won’t truly be over until there’s a widely available vaccine, said Spring Schmidt, co-director of the St. Louis County Department of Public Health.

“We will see outbreaks, there will be rises and falls in cases, there will be additional deaths,” she said. “There will be additional consequences as we move through this.”

The increased number of available diagnostic tests could also be behind the rise in cases, infectious disease experts said.

“Testing, for example, is now much more easily accessible in St. Louis than it was even a week or two ago,” said Dr. Elvin Geng, an infectious disease specialist at Washington University. “Some of this could be due to the greater availability of testing.”

People should consider additional data when studying the disease’s prevalence in the region, he said. Hospitalizations and surveying what symptoms people have when they visit clinics are other valuable tools.

The number of people hospitalized has decreased this week at the region’s four largest hospital systems, according to the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force.

Public officials have said if those numbers go up significantly, they may need to reinstate lockdowns and restrictions on businesses.

“If we do begin to see an uptick, and see more people going into the hospitals, [new guidelines] will be pulled back,” Krewson said.

St. Louis County health officials also are watching hospitalizations.

“Are we maintaining an overall level of our ability to test, our ability to isolate and quarantine someone, our ability to operate our hospital systems without using crisis standards of care?” she said. “We are going to be cautious, but we will have ups and downs in the counts of cases.”

How are coronavirus cases trending?

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