Coronavirus In The St. Louis Region: March 11-15, 2020
This is archived content from our live blog following the coronavirus in the St. Louis region. View current updates here.
10:05 p.m. Sunday, March 15
Missouri Gov. Mike Parson has banned public gatherings of more than 50 people. That number follows new recommendations by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Parson said his crowd limit doesn’t apply to educational institutions, although most schools across the region have already announced they would close starting this week. It also doesn’t apply to day care facilities and business operations, the governor said.
“We ask that facilities that attract large concentrations of senior citizens to strongly consider restrictions and closures, in consultation with health authorities, to protect those most vulnerable to this virus,” he said.
The Kranzberg Arts Foundation has suspended all public events at its venues, including: the Grandel Theatre, the Marcelle, the Kranzberg Studio & Black Box, .ZACK Theatre, High Low’s Listening Room and Sophie’s Artist Lounge.
The galleries at the Kranzberg and High Low will remain open, but only 10 guests will be permitted at a time. The foundation also limited hours and capacity at its restaurants.
Ticketholders can get refunds through Metrotix, but the foundation is asking them to donate the value of the ticket to the presenter instead of asking for a refund.
REI will temporarily close all of its stores, including the location on Brentwood Boulevard, from March 16-27. Read the company’s open letter here.
And St. Louis Post-Dispatch restaurant critic Ian Froeb is updating Twitter with the best ways to order food from locally owned restaurants. Some restaurants are offering curbside delivery or pickup-only after officials asked the public not to gather in groups of more than 50 people.
— Lindsay Toler
8:30 p.m. Sunday, March 15
St. Louis-area schools in Missouri will close this week.
Public and Catholic school districts in St. Louis city, as well as in St. Louis and Jefferson counties, announced Sunday night that they plan to close on Wednesday. St. Charles County’s district schools will close Monday. Districts plan to remain closed at least until April and evaluate extending the closures early that month.
Read our full story for details: St. Louis-Area Schools Will Close To Prevent Coronavirus Spread
The closure affects dozens of districts, including St. Louis’ charter schools. Extracurricular activities and athletics competitions will also stop during that time period. Schools in St. Charles, St. Clair and Madison counties are establishing meal services.
The decision comes after leaders from five local jurisdictions — St. Charles, St. Clair, St. Louis and Madison counties, as well as the city of St. Louis — recommended that all schools close.
The Rabbinical Council has decided to cancel Jewish community day schools.
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Saturday mandated that schools close statewide. Missouri Gov. Mike Parson has not made a similar announcement.
Editor's note: This post has been updated to clarify when St. Charles and Jefferson county public schools will close.
Gatherings are getting smaller. Leaders from St. Charles, St. Clair, Madison and St. Louis counties and St. Louis city announced that they’re prohibiting all crowds or social gatherings of 50 or more. That marks a decrease in maximum capacity from all the areas’ previous rules and recommendations.
Page said Sunday evening on Twitter that the decision is based on guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Restaurants are starting to shut down voluntarily in Missouri. HandlebarSTL and Starbucks are among those that have announced that they plan to close next week. Some Starbucks will still offer drive-thru service. Tamm Avenue Grill in St. Louis’ Dogtown neighborhood announced it would close for St. Patrick’s Day.
Other restaurants, including Nixta, Olio, Vicia, Winslow’s Home, Olive and Oak, and Clover and the Bee are offering takeout versions of their regular menu items. Still others are limiting capacity in their dining rooms.
City and county officials said that they are considering mandatory closure of local bars and restaurants.
3:55 p.m. Sunday, March 15
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker has ordered bars and restaurants to close dine-in services starting Monday night, March 16, through March 30. The mandate allows restaurants in the state to remain open for drive-thru and curbside food pickup. Normal dining services will end at at the close of business Monday.
“I know how difficult this will be on small businesses around the state,” Pritzker said Sunday at a press conference. “This is another hard step. But we must do everything that we can to safeguard the health and safety of the citizens of the state of Illinois.”
The state is working with the U.S. Small Business Administration to offer low-interest loans to small businesses financially hurt by the pandemic, said Alicia Tate-Nadeau, the state’s director of emergency management.
Illinois now has 93 confirmed positive cases of COVID-19 across 13 counties, said Dr. Ngozi Ezike, state Department of Public Health director. Some of the people who tested positive did not travel internationally.
"The number of positive test results that we’re getting each day is increasing exponentially," she said. "People should assume that this novel coronavirus is in their communities."
Ezike urged people to stay home as much as possible, because some who tested positive did not report any symptoms.
Illinois’s presidential primary election on Tuesday will proceed as planned, officials said. Extra safeguards — including outdoor waiting areas — will be put in place to protect voters. Officials asked people to use early voting if possible and practice social distancing if they visit polls in person.
— Kae Petrin
9:55 a.m. Sunday, March 15
Check grocery store hours before heading in. Schnucks will be closing its 24-hour stores overnight, from midnight to 6 a.m., for restocking and cleaning; other locations will close at 10 p.m. Meanwhile, large chains including Whole Foods, Walmart, Trader Joe’s and Aldi have also announced limited hours.
Some small local grocers such as City Greens also have reduced their hours. As of Sunday morning, Dierbergs, Local Harvest and Straub’s are maintaining normal hours.
Some stores are limiting purchase of in-demand items like toilet paper and hand sanitizer.
More churches are taking precautions. The Diocese of Springfield in Illinois has joined the Archdiocese of St. Louis to announce that Catholics are dispensed from their duty to attend Mass. The Illinois Baptist State Association left the decision on whether to cancel services to individual churches.
Many churches around the region are still offering services but are making changes to keep churchgoers safe. Bishop Shawn McKnight of the Diocese of Jefferson City left notes to parishioners in emptied holy water stoups that they would normally use to bless themselves.
Some churches in the region, including the Episcopal Church of the Holy Communion in University City, have announced they are canceling in-person services in lieu of online-only services.
“If Masses are canceled next week, we will broadcast something on social media, or we will figure something out,” said Greg Meystrik, pastor at St. Patrick Church in Rolla.
— Kae Petrin
7 p.m. Saturday, March 14
The Ferguson-Florissant School District will close March 18 through April 3. Superintendent Joseph Davis announced Saturday that district teachers are being trained in online instruction and that schools will distribute materials to students to work on from home.
The district said that food service and transportation staff are preparing to distribute meals to students on days schools are closed excluding the scheduled spring break, scheduled for March 21-29. There also will be no instruction during that time.
The announcement marks the first district closure on the Missouri side of the St. Louis metro area. On Friday, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker mandated that all private and public schools in the state shut down March 17-30.
Spire joins Ameren in offering utility bill assistance. Spire urged anyone financially impacted by COVID-19 to call if they need help with their natural gas service or bill. The company, which provides natural gas to several Missouri counties in the St. Louis area, has committed to not shut off gas service for any customers through March 2020.
— Kae Petrin
5:05 p.m. Saturday, March 14
St. Clair County has issued a disaster proclamation, after two county residents tested positive for COVID-19. County health officials said the women — one in her 60s, the other in her 70s — returned from international travel about a week ago.
They tested positive this week in a hospital in St. Clair County and are currently quarantined at home according to guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Officials said they plan to quarantine anyone who interacted with the women.
Read our full story: Metro East Reports First Positive Cases Of COVID-19, 2 Women Who Traveled Internationally
— Kae Petrin
3:15 p.m. Saturday, March 14
Two COVID-19 cases have been reported in St. Clair County, the first in the Metro East. Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced that two women have tested positive for the virus, one in her 60s and the other in her 70s.
Officials said they’re still determining the women’s travel histories and whom they might have interacted with.
St. Clair County Board Chairman Mark Kern is holding a press conference at 3:30 p.m. that will be streamed on the county emergency management agency’s Facebook page.
Three additional cases were announced in central Illinois, as were fresh cases near Chicago. These bring the total number of cases in Illinois to 64. As of Friday evening, Missouri had announced four known cases.
— Kae Petrin
2 p.m. Saturday, March 14
Ameren will suspend disconnections and forgive late payments for customers in Missouri and Illinois struggling to pay their utility bills. The company announced on Twitter that all its employees will have new health and safety standards to avoid spreading COVID-19.
You’ll be lonely at the movies. Several St. Louis theaters have begun reducing capacity to allow for more personal space.
Local chain STL Cinemas is limiting attendance capacity to 40% at its three locations: Chase Park Plaza Cinemas, MX Movies and the Moolah Theatre. Staff will also wipe down and clean surfaces including seats, armrests, door handles, bathrooms and concession stands between all shows.
National chain AMC Theaters will list films as “sold out” once its auditoriums in Clayton, Creve Coeur, Chesterfield, St. Charles and the Metro East hit 50% capacity.
Drive-thru testing is underway in the St. Louis area. This morning, Mercy’s Chesterfield location tested around 20 patients who had symptoms that could indicate COVID-19, a spokesman for the hospital group said. (Editor's note: Medical staffers collected samples from 52 drive-thru patients by day's end.)
The samples take about 5 minutes to conduct. Labs will take between one and five days to process the samples.
Those wanting to be tested for COVID-19 must first call Mercy’s clinical support line at 314-251-0500 to be screened. Only patients with prior approval from the hospital will receive testing at the drive-thru location.
— Kae Petrin
8:30 a.m. Saturday, March 14
The U.S. House passed a relief bill with support from St. Louis-area representatives. Republicans and Democrats approved a bill 363-40 that would establish free coronavirus testing, paid emergency leave, food aid and increased federal funds for health care.
Two Missouri Republicans, Billy Long of Springfield and Jason Smith of Salem, were among those who voted against it. Missouri’s other six representatives and 17 of 18 Illinois representatives — including all of the Metro East reps — voted for the bill.
The Senate still has to vote on the measure.
Missouri's state university students don’t have to go to class. All schools in the University of Missouri system, including University of Missouri-St. Louis, Mizzou and Missouri S&T will hold remote classes for the rest of the spring 2020 semester.
St. Louis University announced that the majority of classes will be held online until the end of the semester, starting March 16 for its law school and March 23 for others.
Read our full story on local universities’ responses to COVID-19.
— Kae Petrin
8:15 p.m. Friday, March 13
St. Charles County has declared a state of emergency for COVID-19.
“This is not a time for us to panic,” County Executive Steve Ehlmann said in a press release. He said that the county is declaring the state of emergency to “better arm the county against the unknowns of this pandemic, and so that we can access potential federal funding should the need arise.”
St. Charles County is not banning events. However, the county’s health department advised that people not attend indoor gatherings of more than 250 people.
Catholics, you don’t have to go to Mass. Archbishop Robert Carlson is encouraging people who are sick, elderly or otherwise vulnerable to pray from home instead of attend Mass on Sunday. The archdiocese said that churches will remain open, but that Catholics should not feel obligated to attend Mass for the next three weekends.
Those who choose to attend mass should follow the archdiocese’s additional health and safety recommendations to limit the spread of COVID-19.
Illinois casinos will shut down after this weekend. State officials ordered all 10 casinos in the state to suspend gambling operations for two weeks beginning Monday.
— Kae Petrin
6:15 p.m. Friday, March 13
A second St. Louis County resident has tested positive for COVID-19. The county health department said that the new case is related to domestic travel and that the patient is between 50 and 60 years old. It is not related to the first positive case, a 20-year-old student who had traveled to Italy.
The results of the new presumptive positive test must now be confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The county health department says anyone identified during the investigation as having close contact with the second patient or was otherwise at risk of exposure will be contacted directly by the department
More concert cancellations. The Pageant in the Delmar Loop announced a slew of show cancellations and postponements at the Pageant, Delmar Hall, Blueberry Hill Duck Room and Stifel Theatre. The Sheldon Concert Hall has also postponed all performances through April 15.
In all, dozens of shows scheduled for March and April have been postponed, with rescheduled dates available for some. See our running list of concert and event cancellations.
The region’s court systems are also making changes to limit the potential spread of COVID-19.
In St. Louis, Rex Burlison, the presiding judge of the 22nd Circuit, has suspended jury trials until at least April 13. Jurors who received summonses for dates in that time period do not have to show up — their names will be put back into the general pool.
The court also suspended walk-in weddings until further notice — they had been scheduled for March 20 and April 3.
A spokesman for the court said there are no trials underway.
In St. Louis County, the 21st Circuit also announced Friday that it was suspending jury trials for the weeks of March 6 and March 23. All hearings with defendants will be conducted by video conference, rather than in person. The court is postponing all high-volume dockets like traffic and municipal cases. Weddings have also been postponed.
In St. Charles County, judges in the 11th Circuit are meeting Monday to discuss their options, circuit clerk Cheryl Crowder said.
The Eastern District of Missouri, the federal trial court that serves the St. Louis area, says starting March 13, the courthouses in St. Louis and Cape Girardeau will not let anyone in who has:
- Traveled to any foreign country within the past 14 days.
- Had close contact with someone who has traveled to any foreign country within the past 14 days.
- Been asked to self-quarantine by any doctor, hospital or health agency.
- Been diagnosed with or have had contact with anyone diagnosed with COVID-19.
- Unexplained fever, cough or shortness of breath.
Across the river in St. Clair County, officials said they are reviewing ways to reduce the number of jurors who need to be at the courthouse, but have not completely suspended jury trials. Courthouse weddings will be allowed to continue, but the court is asking only the couple to attend.
Madison County has also not suspended jury trials, but court officials are postponing some high-volume courts like traffic and misdemeanor for at least 30 days. The halt does not apply to DUI, domestic violence or felony criminal cases.
— Shahla Farzan, Brian Heffernan and Rachel Lippmann
5:15 p.m. Friday, March 13
Gov. Mike Parson has declared a state of emergency in Missouri.
“I want to be clear that this declaration is not made because we feel that the current health care system is overwhelmed or unprepared,” Parson said at a news conference in Jefferson City.
“I also want to make it clear that it is not intended to close schools. The purpose of this executive order is to allow more flexibility in utilizing our resources and deploying them around the state where they are most appropriate.”
Parson said two more individuals in the state have tested positive for COVID-19, the illness caused by the new coronavirus, but he did not say where. He said he is working with Washington University and the University of Missouri to boost the state’s testing capacity.
Declaring the emergency frees up about $7 million in state funding, Parson said. That’s in addition to the nearly $10 million Missouri expects to get from the federal government.
— Rachel Lippmann
4:38 p.m. Friday, March 13
All public and private schools in Illinois will close, beginning March 17. Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced the change during a press conference Friday. Classes are scheduled to resume March 30.
Pritzker called the move a “critical part of our larger social distancing efforts” intended to slow the spread of COVID-19.
“I understand the gravity of this action and what it means for every community in our state as well as the families and caretakers of the 2 million students that gather in large groups every day,” Pritzker said.
The Illinois State Board of Education has received waivers to continue to distribute two meals a day to children who qualify for free or reduced-price lunches through delivery and parent pickup, the governor said.
The St. Louis Earth Day Festival has been postponed. The 50th anniversary of the festival was originally scheduled for April 25-26. In a statement, organizers said they are working to select a new date and location to celebrate Earth Day later in the year.
— Shahla Farzan
2:33 p.m. Friday, March 13
Missouri Gov. Mike Parson will hold a press conference at 5 p.m. today in Jefferson City to declare a State of Emergency in response to COVID-19.
Governors in more than two dozen other U.S. states have declared a state of emergency in recent days, including Illinois, Kansas, Minnesota, Michigan, Wisconsin, Tennessee, North Carolina, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Florida, New York, Virginia, Arizona, Nevada, California, Washington, Idaho, Utah, Oregon, North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana and Texas.
The Illinois Department of Corrections has suspended visits until further notice, beginning Saturday. Attorneys will be permitted to visit their clients, according to a statement.
Drive-thru testing only available to certain patients. Mercy is opening a drive-thru testing site on Saturday in Chesterfield.
The hospital has clarified an earlier statement to say that the drive-thru will only serve patients with symptoms of COVID-19 who have either traveled to a high-risk area or had contact with an infected patient.
Mercy officials pointed out symptoms of COVID-19 do not include a runny nose or nasal congestion but instead:
- 100.4 fever or higher
- Dry cough
- Shortness of breath
“We will only provide screening for those who meet these requirements, because testing prior to the appearance of symptoms can result in a false negative,” said Dr. Keith Starke, Mercy’s chief quality officer. “It’s critical for our communities that we screen those with the highest risk.”
Those concerned they may have COVID-19 must first call Mercy’s clinical support line at 314-251-0500 to be screened. Only patients with prior approval from the hospital will receive testing at the drive-thru location in Chesterfield.
Six Flags St. Louis has temporarily suspended operations until at least the end of March.
— Shahla Farzan
Noon Friday, March 13
St. Louis County will prohibit public gatherings of more than 250 people in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. The announcement Friday morning comes one day after the city of St. Louis instituted a similar ban on events with more than 1,000 people.
County Executive Sam Page has declared a state of emergency in St. Louis County, which will go into effect at 5 p.m.
“This limit is based on the opinions of the public health experts, the latest guidance from the CDC and my own judgment as a medical doctor,” said Page, an anesthesiologist.
The crowd restrictions do not apply to schools or houses of worship.
Page has directed county agencies to help homeless people find a place to stay during the public health crisis. He is also recommending that the county Civil Service Commission adopt more flexible temporary leave policies for employees who fall ill.
— Lindsay Toler
11:25 a.m. Friday, March 13
Drive-thru testing is coming. Mercy is opening a drive-thru testing site on Saturday in Chesterfield. It will only serve patients the hospital has approved for testing.
Those concerned they may have COVID-19 must first call Mercy’s clinical support line at 314-251-0500 to be screened.
“This drive-through testing site will prevent unnecessary exposure to our patients and caregivers in our hospitals and clinics,” said Donn Sorensen, Mercy’s executive vice president of operations.
In a statement, Mercy officials pointed out COVID-19 symptoms do not include a runny nose or nasal congestion but instead are:
- A fever of 100.4 degrees or higher.
- A dry cough.
- Shortness of breath.
Rage Against the Machine’s highly anticipated reunion tour stop May 16 in St. Louis has been postponed, along with many other large concerts, including: the St. Louis Symphony’s shows this weekend, Nathaniel Rateliff on March 19 at Stifel Theatre, Sturgill Simpson on March 21 at Chaifetz Arena and Billie Eilish on March 28 at Enterprise Center.
— Maria Altman and Brian Heffernan
7:50 p.m. Thursday, March 12
See you next year, St. Louis Battlehawks.
The XFL announced it has canceled the rest of the 2020 regular season as a precaution against coronavirus hours after St. Louis announced a ban on gatherings of more than 1,000 people. Ticket holders will receive refunds or credit toward future games — and players will still get their base pay and benefits.
The league expects to play a full season in 2021 and beyond.
“It was fun while it lasted,” tweeted Brian Folkerts, center for St. Louis’ XFL team. “Thank you to the city of STL and the [Battlehawks] for the wild ride. We proved we are a football town.”
— Lindsay Toler
The Illinois High School Association has canceled its remaining postseason games for winter sports, which include boys’ basketball, scholastic bowl and music competitions, because of coronavirus concerns.
Organization officials had originally announced the tournaments would continue with limited spectators but have now changed course.
“While we had support from the Illinois Department of Public Health and the Peoria City/County Health Department to continue our events with limited spectators, it has become untenable to continue the events among our member schools,” said IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson.
For now, Missouri championships are still planned with limited spectators.
— Sarah Fentem
6:25 p.m. Thursday, March 12
Missouri Gov. Mike Parson announced the second person in Missouri presumed to have COVID-19 is a Springfield resident in their 20s who recently traveled to Austria.
The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services is now working to locate people who may have had contact with the infected patient, who is now under quarantine.
During a press conference Wednesday evening, Parson said the agency has tested 73 individuals for COVID-19 and has the capacity to test an additional 1,000 people. There have been two cases of COVID-19 in Missouri thus far — both have been travel-related. Parson said there is no evidence of person-to-person transmission of the new coronavirus in Missouri.
— Shahla Farzan
6 p.m. Thursday, March 12
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker banned gatherings over 1,000 people statewide and urged the cancellation of events with more than 250 people. This comes shortly after St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson made a similar 1,000-person event ban.
Seven more people in Illinois have tested positive for COVID-19, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health. None is in the Metro East. The seven cases are in Cook, Kane and McHenry counties, near Chicago.
Two prominent St. Louis arts venues will go dark this weekend.
The St. Louis Symphony Orchestra has canceled its weekend concerts. A one-night performance of “The Bachelor Live On Stage” at the Fox Theatre is also canceled, as are performances of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” that were scheduled for March 17-29.
These moves came after St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson announced a ban on public gatherings of over 1,000 people on Thursday afternoon. The Fox Theatre has a listed capacity of 4,500; SLSO’s home, Powell Hall, seats up to 2,683.
The St. Louis County Library Foundation has suspended all outreach and programming events March 16-31. County Library branches will remain open during regular hours.
— Brian Heffernan, Jeremy D. Goodwin and Chad Davis
4:30 p.m. Thursday, March 12
Missouri’s second presumptive case of COVID-19 is in Greene County, near Springfield. A presumptive positive result means that the patient has tested positive for coronavirus, but the case has not yet been confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Missouri Gov. Mike Parson will hold a press conference at 6 p.m. Thursday in Springfield, Missouri, to discuss the second case.
The city of St. Louis is prohibiting gatherings of more than 1,000 people in an effort to prevent further coronavirus exposure.
Mayor Lyda Krewson announced Thursday that the St. Louis Department of Health has declared a public health emergency “in order to be proactive and protect and safeguard the health and safety of the public.”
There have been no cases of coronavirus diagnosed in St. Louis and only one in St. Louis County, where Krewson said she expects the government to initiate a similar ban on large group events. The city also announced it will not conduct water shut-offs for the next 60 days. “This does not mean you don’t have to pay your water bill,” Krewson said.
“We think all of these steps should minimize the impact,” Krewson said. “Out of an abundance of caution is how these decisions are being made. And they're difficult, because as devastating as it is for businesses and employees who work at that business, it would be very, very devastating to have many, many cases of COVID-19.”
— Lindsay Toler and Shahla Farzan
3:30 p.m. Thursday, March 12
March Madness is off. The NCAA announced Thursday afternoon that it was canceling its Division I men’s and women’s basketball tournaments, as well as all remaining winter and spring NCAA championships.
That includes the first- and second-round NCAA Tournament games that had been scheduled to be played at the Enterprise Center on March 19 and 21.
U.S. Rep. Lacy Clay tells St. Louis Public Radio he supports legislation that would provide free testing for COVID-19 and extended unemployment benefits and assistance to small businesses. This comes as President Donald Trump is calling for payroll tax cuts in response to the virus.
“We are going to have to rise to the occasion,” Clay said. “In previous generations, Americans were routinely asked to sacrifice for the good of the nation. And this is one of those situations. And it will require all of us to do that again.”
Clay says that leaders of the House and Senate are likely trying to hammer out something that can pass both legislative chambers — and then help the American people. Read the full story on NPR.
High school basketball championships in Missouri and Illinois this year will be less raucous than usual. The Missouri State High School Activities Association and Illinois High School Association will limit spectators at the finals to curb the potential spread of the new coronavirus.
The finals are scheduled for this weekend and next weekend in Springfield, Missouri, and Peoria, Illinois, respectively.
Missouri officials announced Thursday that each school in the tournament will be able to distribute 150 wristbands to fans. Only people with wristbands will be able to enter the tournament. People who bought tickets previously will not be allowed into the tournament.
— Brian Heffernan, Jason Rosenbaum and Sarah Fentem
2:40 p.m. March 12
Major League Baseball will delay opening day by at least two weeks. MLB has also canceled all spring training games, and the 2020 World Baseball Classic Qualifier games in Tucson, Arizona, have been postponed indefinitely. The Cardinals home opener against the Baltimore Orioles had been scheduled for April 2.
The Missouri Department of Corrections will not allow inmates to have visitors for the next 30 days, beginning Thursday. Attorneys will be allowed to visit their clients during this period. There have been no cases of COVID-19 in Missouri prisons, according to the DOC.
Organizers have canceled the GO! St. Louis Marathon, originally scheduled for March 28-29.
— Shahla Farzan
1:20 p.m. March 12
While the Missouri Senate is canceling its session next week, just before the weeklong legislative spring break, the House will meet.
The House says it will remain in session next week to finish its portion of the state budget.
Senate President Pro Tem Dave Schatz, R-Sullivan, says the decision was made “out of an abundance of caution.” Leadership also says it is possible they may not return the week of March 30, depending on the spread of the virus.
The University of Missouri-St. Louis has joined a growing list of colleges and universities that have suspended in-person classes. Instructors will teach all courses remotely beginning Monday.
— Jaclyn Driscoll and Shahla Farzan
1 p.m. March 12
The St. Louis County Police Department is asking recently retired officers if they are willing to come back to work if the coronavirus outbreak affects the agency.
St. Louis County Councilman Tim Fitch, a former county police chief, said Thursday he and others received a memo asking if they would be willing to volunteer to work if the coronavirus outbreak requires extra staffing. The police don’t have plans to activate any retired police officers at this time but want to compile a list of retirees willing to come back temporarily, he said.
Only people who have retired in the past 10 years are being asked to volunteer and would be paid, he said.
Fitch has signed up to volunteer to serve, though he said he wouldn’t be paid.
The police department wouldn’t confirm it had solicited help from retirees but said it's preparing for a crisis.
The St. Louis Police Department has no plans to do anything similar, a spokeswoman said.
— Julie O'Donoghue
12:15 p.m. March 12
St. Louis University has suspended all in-person courses and instruction until at least April 30. Remote coursework will begin on March 23, after students return from spring break.
Exceptions include the St. Louis University School of Medicine, select programs in the Doisy College of Health Sciences, the Center for Advanced Dental Education and all off-campus experiential learning opportunities, such as internships and student teaching.
Belleville officials have canceled all St. Patrick’s Day events originally scheduled for this Saturday, including the Lucky Leprechaun 5K, St. Patrick’s Day parade and the Main Street Block Party. The events will be rescheduled at a later date, according to a press release from the city of Belleville.
And some good news for readers looking to cozy up with a book in the safety of their homes: Left Bank Books will now offer free shipping on all book orders placed online and by phone.
— Shahla Farzan
10:10 a.m. March 12
Archbishop Robert Carlson has ordered all parishes within the Archdiocese of St. Louis to stop distributing Holy Communion in shared cups.
Priests and deacons must also drain all Holy Water fonts and sanitize sacred vessels before and after Mass. Parishioners are asked to bow or wave to fellow worshippers during the sign of the peace and should maintain a distance of at least three feet from their nearest neighbor during services.
Any clergy member or parishioner who feels sick should not come to Mass or participate in any parish activities.
The City of St. Louis will cease all water shutoffs until May 15, to ensure all residents have access to water for handwashing and cleaning.
Mayor Lyda Krewson sent a letter Thursday morning to Curt Skouby, the city’s public utilities director, ordering the temporary change.
— Shahla Farzan
11:15 p.m. Wednesday, March 11
The Missouri Senate is canceling its session in Jefferson City next week, according to a tweet Wednesday night by Majority Leader Caleb Rowden. He tweeted earlier in the evening that there have been no positive cases of COVID-19 in the Capitol.
More university precautions: The Southern Illinois University campuses in Edwardsville and Carbondale have joined several area colleges in temporarily suspending on-campus classes. SIU has extended spring break at both schools through March 22. Harris-Stowe State University also extended spring break through March 22.
For information on what other area universities are doing, read: Wash U, Webster U. Join SLU, Maryville U. In Moving Classes Online As Coronavirus Precaution
— Brian Heffernan
10:20 p.m. Wednesday, March 11
Hundreds of St. Louisians will have to find a new place to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day this year. The annual parade in the Dogtown neighborhood of St. Louis has been postponed, according to the Ancient Order of Hibernians-St. Louis, the group that organizes the event. St. Patrick’s Day festivities in Cottleville are also canceled.
As mentioned in an earlier update, Rolla has also canceled its annual celebrations this year — for the first time since World War II. And the parade in downtown St. Louis has also been postponed to a later, undetermined date.
President Donald Trump announced in a live address that he is suspending all travel from Europe (except the U.K.) for 30 days, starting on Friday. Read the latest from NPR.
— Lindsay Toler
7:00 p.m. March 11
Let’s start with the latest numbers: 65 people in Missouri have been tested for coronavirus. Only one, the woman in St. Louis County, has tested positive. All other results were negative, according to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services.
The St. Patrick’s Day parade in downtown St. Louis has been postponed. All related activities, including the five-mile run, have been postponed to a later, undetermined date. As of now, the parade in Dogtown is still on, as is one in Cottleville.
New from STLPR business reporter Corinne Ruff: The NCAA’s decision to keep fans out of the March Madness games could mean the St. Louis regional economy misses out on as much as $30 million. The Enterprise Center holds nearly 20,000 people, and about 80% of the fans were expected to come from out of town.
Read our story: NCAA Won't Let Fans Attend March Madness Games, Including In St. Louis
Bayer will reopen its Creve Coeur campus tomorrow, including the St. Louis Child Development Center. The company says it “confirmed that the employee in the Creve Coeur site tested negative. Those with whom this employee was in contact while on site also continue to show no symptoms.”
The state of Missouri is suing televangelist Jim Bakker and his production company to stop them from advertising or selling a fake coronavirus remedy. The COVID-19 disease does not yet have a treatment or cure. Read the full story from NPR.
— Lindsay Toler
4:40 p.m. March 11
Bad news, sports fans. The NCAA March Madness championship games will go on, but only essential staff and family will be able to attend — no fans allowed. First- and second-round games of the 2020 tournament were scheduled for next Thursday and Saturday at the Enterprise Center in St. Louis.
And Mizzou has suspended in-person classes until after spring break, on March 30. There have been no known cases of COVID-19 on campus. A small group of faculty and students recently attended a conference in New Orleans where an attendee (who was not from Mizzou) tested positive.
There is a new public hotline for people seeing information about coronavirus. It is staffed by medical professionals and open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You can call the Missouri state coronavirus hotline at (877) 435-8411.
— Lindsay Toler
3:40 p.m. March 11
In St. Louis, Webster University became the fourth campus in metro St. Louis to tell students and faculty it will transition to online-only instruction. Washington University, St. Louis University and Maryville University have also said they would suspend classes to help reduce the spread of the new coronavirus.
None of the campuses has reported a case of the disease or any students, faculty or staff being exposed to it. Read our full story here: Webster U. Joins Wash U, SLU, Maryville U. In Taking Classes Online As Coronavirus Precaution
In Jefferson City, there are now extra precautions in place at the Missouri State Capitol due to the coronavirus. The House Chamber is now closed to the public; so is the House Lounge, where weekly press conferences are held.
There will be a deep-cleaning throughout the building during the legislative spring break, which begins March 23. Anyone who does not directly participate in the legislative process is asked to stay away from the statehouse.
And online, a Twitter thread from my colleague Julie O’Donoghue about her experience with coronavirus has gone viral. She traveled to France for her honeymoon and self-quarantined with her new husband when she got back. Read the thread here.
— Lindsay Toler
3 p.m. Wednesday, March 11
Welcome to the St. Louis Public Radio coronavirus blog. Here’s where we will post regular updates about regional response to the pandemic. Have a question? Ask Curious Louis in our coronavirus Q&A.
Here's what's new today:
Missouri still has only one confirmed case of COVID-19: the St. Louis County woman who traveled to Italy. The Department of Health and Senior Services says 46 Missourians have been tested.
In Rolla, the St. Patrick’s Day parade has been canceled amid concerns over the coronavirus. Missouri University of Science and Technology announced it is canceling all activities this weekend, including the carnival and concert. Phelps Health Medical Center has said it currently has a possible COVID-19 patient in isolation for testing.
Why is this a big deal? The annual St. Patrick’s Day celebration dates back more than 110 years, and this is the first time it’s been canceled since World War II. Missouri S&T also said, “as part of the 112-year-old tradition, the university does not hold classes on the Thursday and Friday before the annual parade. The practice of dismissing classes Thursday and Friday will continue.”
— Lindsay Toler
Correction: The St. Patrick’s Day celebration at Missouri S&T was only canceled for a few years during World War II in its 112-year-long history. A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that this was the first year the parade would be canceled.
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