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St. Louis Restaurants, Retail Stores Can Open May 18, But Employees Must Wear Masks

Mayor Krewson wearing a mask during a visit to an Affinia Healthcare COVID-19 mobile test site in north St. Louis in late April.
Bill Greenblatt | UPI

St. Louis will begin easing some of the restrictions city officials put in place to limit the spread of the coronavirus, but it will also implement new ones, Mayor Lyda Krewson said Friday.

Starting May 18, restaurants in the city can open, but tables must be six feet apart. Retail shops also can open. But employees must wear face masks and customers should also, Krewson said on St. Louis on the Air.

“We’re going to crack the door open,” Krewson said. “We are going to open it a little ways. 25, 30 percent of the way open, so that we can ease into this.”

Krewson said large venues like the St. Louis Zoo, Gateway Arch, the St. Louis Art Museum and the St. Louis Aquarium at Union Station will not be able to open immediately. She said city officials will work with large venues over the next few weeks to determine when that will be possible.

Krewson said she thinks “it’s just extremely important” that restaurants and retail businesses open — but customers will share responsibility for keeping people safe. She said businesses can refuse service to people who are not wearing masks. 

“Obviously you can’t wear the mask while you’re eating, but your server can wear the mask and obviously you can wear the mask in and out,” the mayor said. “Most likely you will be dining with people who you are close to.”

“If you have any symptoms — if you are sick at all — you don’t belong in a restaurant. I think what we all have to do is limit exposure,” she said.

Krewson encouraged people 65 years and older as well as those who are sick or have underlying health conditions to stay home to limit the risk of exposure.

“What we see is both the number of cases and the seriousness of cases is very tied to age,” Krewson said. “Of, course you can get COVID if you are a child or if you are in your teens or 20s or early 30s.”

Child care facilities and summer camps will be able to open on May 18, but must follow the guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

“We know that once people have to go back to work that they certainly have to have day care,” Krewson said. “We are thinking that they can be open. We expect that there will be fewer kids. Not everyone will go back to work on the 18th.”

She encouraged anyone who can telework to continue working from home.

Business owners of hair salons and barbershops who are concerned about reopening for health safety reasons, do not have to reopen their doors, Krewson said. Those who cannot follow the required precautions — providing face masks for employees and six-feet of separation — should remain closed, she said.

“Everybody needs to maintain social distance a lot and wash your hands to the point where you‘re using hand lotion because your hands are so raw. And you need to be wearing a face mask.”

Krewson added that business owners reserve the right to refuse service to any customer who does not wear a mask in the particular establishment. 

“The non-maskers can be kind of edgy about it or aggressive about it so I would say don’t confront those people but I would also say avoid them because sooner or later they’re at higher risk,” she said.

“It’s just common sense. You don’t want to get sick and you don’t want to get someone else sick.”

Krewson said everyone should be worried about a second wave of coronavirus cases in the St. Louis region. But she noted that more people are testing positive for the virus because the city is testing more people, given that it recently received 13,000 tests. 

“The St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force said that we should really be focusing on hospitalization,” Krewson said. “What we’re seeing here is a significant downward trend in the number of people who are being hospitalized each day.”

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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Andrea covers race, identity & culture at St. Louis Public Radio.
David is the health, science and arts & culture editor for St. Louis Public Radio.

Send questions and comments about this story to feedback@stlpublicradio.org.