Even as most of the St. Louis area remains closed for business due to the coronavirus pandemic, St. Charles County — Missouri’s third-most populous county — followed Gov. Mike Parson’s lead and reopened its economy Monday.
“I drove around yesterday afternoon, and I only found five or six, maybe seven restaurants that were open. It was a little bit harder to tell with businesses, generally,” said St. Charles County Executive Steve Ehlmann on St. Louis on the Air.
While Ehlmann said the county is open for business, he said he trusts residents to evaluate their own risks of venturing out.
“We’ve put it into the hands of business owners and ultimately into the hands of the consumer,” Ehlmann said. “It’s a question of, 'Do you let the market decide these things, or do you have the government ordering people what to do?'”
For his part, Ehlmann said he’s waiting a bit longer to visit many places in the county because he’s older than 65. That’s one of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s risk factors that make people more susceptible to severe illness due to COVID-19.
The county’s elderly population has been hit hard by the coronavirus. Seventy-one percent of deaths there have been nursing home residents, and 80% of deaths have been of people who are at least 70 years old, Ehlmann said.
Forty-two St. Charles County residents have died of COVID-19, compared to 189 and 71 deaths in St. Louis County and St. Louis, respectively. Ehlmann said St. Charles County has seen a decline in coronavirus cases for the past 17 days.
St. Charles County still requires people to stay six feet apart, with an exception for family members and those performing job duties that require close contact, such as at salons and tattoo parlors. Extra precautions are required for businesses where close contact is necessary.
Host Sarah Fenske also spoke with St. Louis Public Radio reporter Jason Rosenbaum about how other Missouri jurisdictions are considering whether to reopen their economies.
“St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill, Lara Hamdan and Joshua Phelps. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr.
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