coronavirus | St. Louis Public Radio


A new report says more than 35% of Missouri students don't have adequate internet connectivity for virtual learning. 070420
Sylvia Maria Gross | KCUR

Even fewer Missouri students have reliable internet connectivity than previously thought, according to a new report from the nonprofit Common Sense Media.

The group, which makes entertainment and technology recommendations for families, estimates that 36% of Missouri students don’t have adequate internet access for virtual learning.

An earlier Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education survey put that figure at 23%. Both studies found that cost was the biggest barrier to access.

Medical workers at Mercy Health's drive-through novel coronavirus test collection site are gathering samples from patients daily from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. (March 16, 2020)
File Photo| Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Residents in primarily north St. Louis County ZIP codes hit hardest by the coronavirus will help determine how $7 million in federal coronavirus funding will be spent by voting online.

The survey from the St. Louis County Department of Public Health asks people what health services they need the most and will use those responses to bring the most urgent needs to the communities.

The Casino Queen in East St. Louis reopened to gamblers on July 1. Casinos in Illinois had been shut down since the middle of March becuase of the coronavirus.
Eric Schmid | St Louis Public Radio

EAST ST. LOUIS — Dozens waited outside the Casino Queen on Wednesday morning, eager for the first day of gambling in Illinois since the coronavirus pandemic hit.

The Illinois Gaming Board announced last week all 10 casinos and more than 37,000 video gaming terminals in the state could resume operating Wednesday, nearly a month after casinos in Missouri reopened.

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

Updated at 6:50 p.m. July 1, with comments from St. Charles County Executive Steve Ehlman.

St. Louis and St. Louis County will require people to wear face masks when in public to protect people from the coronavirus, St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson and County Executive Sam Page announced Wednesday.

The order, which takes effect at 7 a.m. Friday, is aimed at preventing the virus from spreading.

All people over age 9 will need to wear a mask or face covering when inside stores or other indoor public spaces. They will also need to wear one outside when social distancing isn’t possible. People with certain health conditions such as respiratory problems will be exempt from the requirement. 

Parson announces $448 million in withholds for the FY 2021 state budget
Jaclyn Driscoll | St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson announced that he signed the state budget on Tuesday but is withholding $448.8 million in order to keep it balanced after the state’s economy was ravaged by the coronavirus. 

The area hit hardest is K-12 education funding. According to the Office of Administration, $123.3 million will be withheld from the foundation formula. Higher education is expected to see the next-largest reduction in planned spending, with $27.9 million in withholds, and community colleges will see $18.4 million. 

Signs at the Barnes-Jewish Center for Advanced Medicine alert patients to disclose if they think they may have symptoms of the novel coronavirus.
File | Sarah Fentem | St. Louis Public Radio

Hospitals in St. Louis are again allowing people to visit patients after months of restrictions aimed at controlling the spread of the coronavirus.

SSM Health, Mercy, BJC HealthCare and St. Luke’s hospitals are now allowing one visitor per day for most patients. Patients who are being treated for COVID-19 or may have the disease are still not allowed to have visitors in most cases.

The coronavirus has slowed in the community, and the risk to patients and visitors is lower, said Dr. Alex Garza, head of the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force.

Busch Stadium, home of the St. Louis Cardinals, is located in the heart of downtown.
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

The St. Louis Cardinals will open training camp this week at Busch Stadium. They are preparing for a shortened regular season because of the pandemic. Major League Baseball is planning for all teams to play 60 games, starting July 23 or 24.

St. Louis Public Radio’s Wayne Pratt spoke with Cardinals beat writer Anne Rogers about the shortened season, what this might look like for the fans and how she’s planning to do her job during a pandemic. 

Photo taken 06-26-2020
Jonathan Ahl | St. Louis Public Radio

ROLLA — As part of its efforts to reopen campus and slow the spread of the coronavirus, Missouri University of Science and Technology is expecting students, faculty and staff to take their temperature every morning before coming to campus this fall. 

Colleges and universities across the country are struggling to find ways to both resume in-person classes and protect the campus community’s health.

Officials at Missouri S&T are calling the daily temperature checks a reasonable and important safety step.

St. Louis Shakespeare Festival's summer show in Forest Park typically draws about 40,000 people per year. [6/28/20]
Credit Phillip Hamer Photography

The coronavirus has robbed St. Louis of another longstanding tradition.

St. Louis Shakespeare Festival canceled its annual summer production, leaving the organization in a big financial hole and sending 25 full-time and 53 part-time seasonal workers looking for other employment. The cancellation does not effect the organization's eight year-round employes.

Actors' Equity, the national union representing professional actors and stage managers, did not approve the festival’s safety plan, Producing Artistic Director Tom Ridgely said. 

Dale Strom cleans a pair of bowling shoes at Bel-Air Bowl on June 26. The bowling alley reopened for the first time on Friday since the coronavirus closed businesses across the region. 06 26 2020
Eric Schmid | St Louis Public Radio

More businesses and public places in Illinois opened Friday as the state moved into its next phase of reopening since the coronavirus pandemic hit.

Under phase four, movie theatres, zoos, museums, bowling alleys and some other establishments were able to open their doors to patrons for the first time since March. Restaurants and bars could also start offering indoor dining, too.

St. Louis Fire Department paramedic Andrew Beasley wears a mask, gloves and a gown as he disinfects the back of an ambulance with a bleach mix, after delivering a patient to Barnes-Jewish Hospital on March 16, 2020.
File Photo | Bill Greenblatt | UPI

More than 1,000 people in Missouri have died from COVID-19, according to data analyzed by St. Louis Public Radio. The state reached that grim milestone earlier this week, three months after the first person in the state died from the disease.

“Any number is significant, but it’s a sign we’re truly in a pandemic situation with 1,000 deaths,” said Dr. Bill Powderly, infectious disease chief at Washington University and director of the school’s Institute for Public Health. He said the country is still in the “first wave” of the virus. 

“We’re still in the phase where it could rapidly flare up again if we don’t remain vigilant,” he said.

Updated at 3:30 p.m. ET

The White House Coronavirus Task Force renewed calls for vigilance on Friday, acknowledging rising cases across Southern states and in parts of California.

On one thing, both Missouri’s Gov. Mike Parson and health experts agree: The state must dramatically increase supplies of masks and other protective medical gear to keep health care workers and the general public safe from COVID-19.

To that end, state officials recently created an online PPE marketplace. But critics say a lack of oversight and legal protections has left marketplace buyers vulnerable to scams and price gouging.

The 11,000 seats at the Muny will sit idle this summer. The shape of summer life in St. Louis is changing because of the coronavirus. [6/25/20]
Brent Jones | St. Louis Public Radio

Live cultural events are typically a big part of summer life for many in the St. Louis region. But this year, musicals at the Muny, free concerts and other events are called off, to prevent spread of the coronavirus in large crowds. 

This creates a void bigger than the hole in attendees’ social calendars. It upends family traditions. It removes gathering spaces where people make connections with neighbors and with strangers. 

It affects many people’s very relationship with the city.

A Jennings child expresses disappointment about the lack of chocolate milk options on the first day of summer school. Operation Food Search, a regional food bank, will supply meals to a thousand students at the north St. Louis County school district this
File Photo | Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

Federal money meant to help low-income families with food costs while kids were home from school this spring is reaching just 60% of Missouri’s eligible families.

The Pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfer is a $5.40 a day allocation from the U.S. Department of Agriculture that usually goes to high-poverty schools to feed their students. Instead this spring the P-EBT money was sent directly to families across the country as a one-time check of up to $302.

Philip Mudd picks up a cooler of medical samples at Washington University's School of Medicine. Mudd and his colleague Jane O'Halloran created a centralized bank of samples collected from COVID-19 patients in St. Louis.
Washington University

Researchers at Washington University are collecting samples from hundreds of people who have had COVID-19 — including blood, saliva and urine.

As scientists scramble to answer a multitude of questions about the coronavirus, medical samples are becoming an ever more critical piece of the puzzle. By creating a centralized specimen bank and sharing samples among labs, Wash U physicians are hoping to streamline the research process.

The Girondo family from Rolla family looks out on some turkeys from their blind. They used hunting as a way to get out of the house and bond during the coronavirus pandemic. June 2020
Nick Girondo

ROLLA — When Nick Girondo first looked at his family calendar this spring, he struggled to find a time to get everyone out turkey hunting during the 22-day season. 

“With sports and other things going on, we probably would have got out one day at the most, the way planning was going with family events,” he said.

But when the coronavirus pandemic came to Missouri, those events were canceled and the family went hunting.

The Girondos weren’t alone. Missouri saw a huge increase in hunting activity this turkey season. Regular hunters came out more often, almost 20,000 new hunters tried out the sport, and the number of birds youth hunters took in was up by more than 10 percent.

June 22, 2020 Joe Monahan Walter Smith
Provided by Confluence Discovery Technologies

COVID-19 remains a mystery in many ways, but as it continues to rampage through the world’s population, some things are becoming more clear. One of them is that cytokine storms — a “deranged immune response” to the virus, in which the body literally attacks its own cells instead of the invading coronavirus — appear to be one reason some patients end up extremely ill.

A drug developed in St. Louis aims to combat those cytokine storms. Called ATI-450, it was originally developed by Confluence Discovery Technologies in 2013 with the idea of helping people suffering from autoimmune diseases, particularly rheumatoid arthritis.    

Fort Leonard Wood, taken 7-26-19
File photo | Jonathan Ahl | St. Louis Public Radio

Statewide, there were 1,528 new coronavirus cases for the week ending June 19. Thats up 8% over the previous week, and on June 18, new cases topped 300 in one day for the first time since the beginning of May.

Some of the increases are coming from outbreaks in rural areas that are tied to meatpacking plants and Fort Leonard Wood. 

Adair and Sullivan Counties in northern Missouri each have more than 100 cases, while their neighboring counties are in the single digits. 

People pass a window display featuring outfits with matching coronavirus masks on Washington Avenue in downtown St. Louis on June 19, 2020.
Sarah Fentem | St. Louis Public Radio

After months of being stuck at home in Madison, Illinois, Towanne Russell decided to venture out on a Sunday in mid-June.

“Being locked up in the house, it kind of messes with you mentally, physically, emotionally,” she said. “And I needed to get out before I lost it!”

Many people in the St. Louis regions are eager to emerge from months of quarantine to meet with friends, or get their hair cut. So far, so good: Since officials in St. Louis and St. Louis County in May lifted restrictions aimed at limiting the spread of the coronavirus, the average number of new cases has remained relatively constant.

But some public health experts worry that people in the region are resuming their routines too soon.

Metro East restaurants will be able to offer dine-in food service beginning Friday. Many have only provided delivery or pick-up food during the pandemic.
Provided via the Belleville News-Democrat

Editor's Note: This article was originally published in the Belleville News-Democrat.

Illinois moves into Phase 4 of Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s five-phased reopening plan Friday, bringing much anticipated changes to coronavirus pandemic restrictions.

Gatherings of up to 50 will be allowed in Phase 4. Under Phase 3 of the Restore Illinois plan, which went into effect May 29, groups of more than 10 were banned.

All regions in Illinois were set to move into the new phase as of Monday morning.

An illustration showing Lady Justice with a mask over her face.
David Kovaluk | St Louis Public Radio

The coronavirus pandemic brought normal court operations across Missouri to a sudden halt. 

Jury trials were postponed, other court proceedings moved to video conferencing or were done over the telephone, and access to courthouses was strictly limited. Now, the easing of state and local restrictions means courthouses are slowly opening, but it may be a long time before operations fully resume.

More providers are treating patients over video chats and phone calls as concerns about the coronavirus keep people from visiting clinics.
Janice Chang | NPR

Spurred by the coronavirus, top medical schools in the St. Louis region are making telemedicine part of their curriculum for training new doctors.

Telemedicine has surged in popularity during the pandemic because it minimizes the risk for both doctors and patients spreading the virus. Medical experts now say telemedicine will prove to be more than a temporary fix, and instead, an essential tool for current and future doctors.

June 17, 2020 City Museum
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis’ beloved City Museum has long prided itself on having very few rules — “don’t run” being one of them. But when the 600,000-square-foot playland reopened Wednesday after months without visitors, it had a host of new policies and procedures in place. 

Those new rules are designed to stop the spread of the coronavirus, even while allowing guests access to the giant tunnels and slides that have long been the museum’s raison d’etre — well, most of them, anyway. In addition to some features being closed, now visitors have to reserve their spots ahead of time. If they’re over 9 years old, they have to wear masks. And the museum will be given a complete cleaning between groups of visitors.

On Friday’s St. Louis on the Air, general manager Rick Erwin discussed the difficulty of bringing order to a place that has long promised near-total freedom. 

Latoy Williams, right, spends time with her family at the state prison in Vandalia on February 23, 2020. In mid-March, the Missouri Department of Corrections suspended all visitation due to the pandemic.
Shahla Farzan | St. Louis Public Radio

Tina Merriweather carries her phone with her everywhere, just in case her daughter calls.

“I can be in a prayer service and she'll call me, but I always answer,” Merriweather said.

Her daughter, Latoy Williams, is an inmate at Women’s Eastern Reception, Diagnostic and Correctional Center in Vandalia. She is among the tens of thousands in Missouri prisons unable to see their relatives in person due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

About 100 demontrators, many of them children, walk onto the Arch grounds Sunday June 14, 2020, to protest police violence. It was just one of several such protests over the weekend.
File Photo | Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

People across the St. Louis region are taking to the streets to protest police brutality as officials lift restrictions put in place to combat the spread of the coronavirus.

But the virus hasn’t gone away.

The St. Louis region saw an average of 142 new coronavirus cases per day in the week ending June 11. Health experts say the spike isn’t surprising as businesses across the region open their doors. Even though people are able to leave their homes, health experts say the coronavirus is still a threat — and protesters should take precautions to stay safe.

Delmar Gardens of Chesterfield's building on May 22, 2020.
Eli Chen | St. Louis Public Radio

Nursing homes could soon allow families to visit their loved ones outdoors. 

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services released guidelines Monday for nursing homes and assisted living facilities so that people can visit residents outdoors or at open windows, if the resident cannot leave their room. 

Nursing homes have restricted access to visitors since March to reduce the risk of infection. More than 250 nursing home residents in Missouri have died of COVID-19, according to data the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid released this month.

The 2020 Illinois and DuQuoin State Fairs have been canceled.

In a video announcement posted to Facebook, State Fair Manager Kevin Gordon said the decision stems from wanting to protect people from contracting COVID-19.

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

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.

Parson at briefing on Wednesday, May 5, 2020
File photo| Jaclyn Driscoll | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated at 6:30 p.m. June 11 with plan details

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson announced Thursday he will allow all businesses in the state to open without restrictions on Tuesday. 

“At some point, government has to get out of the way and let people live their lives and regulate their own selves,” Parson said at a press briefing. “We are at that time in the state of Missouri.”