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Coronavirus Blog

Live Updates: Coronavirus In The St. Louis Region

1 hour ago
Four residents and two workers at a St. Louis nursing home have tested positive for coronavirus.
Nat Thomas | St. Louis Public Radio

7:50 a.m. Sunday, April 5

Good morning, everyone! It’s supposed to be another cloudy, gloomy day in the region, which is perfect for staying home and keeping yourself safe.

The number of new cases keeps growing. Illinois passed a landmark number Saturday, surpassing 10,000 people who have tested positive. During his daily press briefing, Gov. J.B. Pritzker seemed frustrated that more people aren’t taking the situation seriously.

“All I can say is that those people either are not paying attention to the news or they’re stupid,” Pritzker said. “There’s no reason why somebody should be ignoring this.”

Meanwhile, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson explained Saturday that his statewide, stay-at-home order, which limits the number of people who can be in places like grocery stories, is about keeping people safe. It’s not because there are food shortages.

However, in that same briefing Saturday, Parson noted that the coronavirus isn’t airborne, which sparked a question from our Jaclyn Driscoll onTwitter. It also highlights how confusing the science about the virus can be for lay people.

And here in the St. Louis area, Metro is shutting its indoor transit centers to the public. Metro said the indoor areas at Civic Center, Riverview, North County and Ballas will be closed indefinitely, but the four centers will remain open for MetroBus and MetroLink transit. In its press release, Metro reiterated its plea that people only use public transit for essential trips only.

Also, we’ve compiled a handy guide for who is eligible for testing and where you can go to get tested. 

Here are the latest coronavirus counts

  • St. Louis metro: 1.626 positive cases; 26 people have died. 
  • Missouri: 2,291 cases; 29 deaths.
  • Illinois: 10,357 cases; 243 deaths.

Shula Neuman

4:45 p.m. Saturday, April 4

At his daily press briefing Saturday, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson said COVID-19 is not airborne and encouraged Missourians to enjoy the weather while practicing social distancing.

However, the Missouri State Medical Association said it does not know if it is airborne. 

Coronavirus In The St. Louis Region: March 23-29, 2020

Mar 29, 2020
Four residents and two workers at a St. Louis nursing home have tested positive for coronavirus.
Nat Thomas | St. Louis Public Radio

This is archived content from our live blog following the coronavirus in the St. Louis region. View current updates here.

Coronavirus In The St. Louis Region: March 16-22, 2020

Mar 22, 2020
Four residents and two workers at a St. Louis nursing home have tested positive for coronavirus.
Nat Thomas | St. Louis Public Radio

This is archived content from our live blog following the coronavirus in the St. Louis region. View current updates here.

There is now “clear evidence of community transmission” of COVID-19 in St. Louis County, according to the county health department. The CDC defines community spread as a situation in which some infected patients are unsure how they contracted the virus.

There are 55 confirmed COVID-19 cases in St. Louis County, of which 38 are new cases as of Sunday night. The county health department said six of these new cases were not travel-related.

There are also six new cases of COVID-19 in the city of St. Louis, bringing the citywide total to 14. City health department staff are working to identify individuals who may have had contact with the infected patients, according to a press release issued Sunday evening.

MU Health Care in Columbia, Missouri, is expanding its COVID-19 testing. Providers are no longer required to ask patients about previous exposure, risk factors or travel history before ordering testing.

— Shahla Farzan

There are 296 new cases of COVID-19 in Illinois, according to the state’s health department. Three more Illinois residents have died of the illness, including two men in their 80s and a woman in her 70s. 

Currently, there are 1,049 cases across 30 counties in Illinois. The patients range in age from less than a year old to 99.

Missouri Rep. Joe Runions is recovering in the hospital from COVID-19. In a statement, the Jackson County Democrat said he is working to ensure that health care workers in Missouri have access to critical medical supplies.

“I spoke with Governor Parson earlier today and shared my experiences and observations as a COVID-19 patient,” Runions said. “I also urged him to do all in his power to send the necessary supplies directly to our hospitals as quickly as possible.”

Metro East cafeteria workers and bus drivers are working together to feed local students while Illinois schools are closed, according to the Belleville News-Democrat.

Kitchen workers at Belleville East High School prepare daily lunches for about 1,250 students, including sandwiches and fresh vegetables. The district’s bus drivers then drop off the meals to families along their normal routes.

East St. Louis School District 189 is also providing free student lunches every weekday from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Families and students can pick up meals at specific locations throughout the community, including all K-12 schools in the district, bus stops and certain Metro East community centers.

Do you own a company that produces medical gowns or masks? The Missouri Department of Economic Development is searching for companies that are currently producing N95 medical masks or gowns in large and extra-large sizes — or can begin producing them in a short time frame. 

— Shahla Farzan

The Department of Revenue office for the City of St. Louis has closed temporarily. All valid Missouri driver's licenses and vehicle registrations with an expiration date of March 1, 2020, through April 30, 2020, have been granted an automatic 60-day extension without penalty.

Missouri now has 90 confirmed cases of COVID-19, according to updated information on the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services website. There have been three deaths.

BJC HealthCare has opened its first mobile COVID-19 testing center in the Cortex corridor. In order to be tested, patients must receive a referral from a BJC provider or have been pre-screened based on Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines. BJC plans to open additional testing sites in north St. Louis County and the Metro East in the next several weeks.

There’s a new product on tap at Anheuser-Busch: hand sanitizer. The company joins a growing number of U.S. breweries and distilleries producing hand sanitizer to combat the spread of COVID-19. In a tweet, the company announced it will be working with the Red Cross and other nonprofit partners to “determine where the hand sanitizer will be needed most.”

 

— Shahla Farzan

Good morning! The big news of the weekend so far has been stay-at-home orders for St. Louis and St. Louis County and the state’s mandate for social distancing.

Here are the latest numbers of cases of COVID-19 in our region.

  • St. Louis metro: 35 confirmed cases, one death.
  • Missouri: 73 confirmed cases, three deaths, 395 people tested as of Friday morning (no testing updates since then).
  • Illinois: 585 confirmed cases, six deaths, 6247 people tested.

We've been answering your questions about the coronavirus situation as best we can, and you can find a lot of information here. Do you have questions about what's happening? Submit them here, and we'll work to get answers. Keep emailing my colleague Lindsay Toler about what life in these times is like for you: ltoler@stlpublicradio.org

We’ll update this live blog over the weekend, but we’re also trying to give our reporters and editors time to rest, unplug and stay healthy. It’s a difficult balance. Thank you for being patient as we work it out.

— Holly Edgell

St. Louis Lambert International Airport will remain open, despite the regional stay-at-home order. The airport is considered an essential service and is exempt from the mandatory restrictions, which begin at 12:01 a.m. Monday in St. Louis County and 6 p.m. in St. Louis city.

There is a third COVID-19 case in St. Charles County, according to the county’s health department. The patient is a man in his 20s who traveled to Spain.

An employee at Webster University has tested positive for COVID-19 and is now in self-quarantine. The patient had recently traveled to New York City with members of the school's Conservatory of Theatre Arts program.

Whiteman Air Force Base in Johnson County, Missouri, has confirmed its first case of COVID-19. The patient is an adult who's not a member of the military. 

SSM Health and BJC Healthcare have suspended in-person visitation at their facilities, including Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital, St. Louis University Hospital, St. Louis Children’s Hospital and Barnes-Jewish Hospital.

Patients will be allowed to have visitors in some circumstances. SSM Health has included exemptions for patients in pediatric settings, family birthplace centers and those in end-of-life situations. These patients will be allowed to have one visitor with the permission of a nursing leader.

BJC Healthcare also will allow visitors for obstetric patients, pediatric patients, nursery and neonatal intensive care, patients who require end-of-life care and those with behavioral health or development delays.

— Shahla Farzan

There are now 17 confirmed COVID-19 cases in St. Louis County. There has been one death so far, according to the county’s Department of Public Health. 

Of the eight additional cases confirmed, only one is classified as “travel-related.” The other seven cases are categorized as “unknown origin.” Five of the cases have occurred in patients 40 or older. 

St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson said health officials now have “evidence of community spread” of coronavirus in the St. Louis region during a press conference Saturday afternoon — meaning that the virus is now spreading from person to person.

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson announced Saturday that MO HealthNet coverage will be provided to all state residents ages 19-64 who test positive for COVID-19 and meet program guidelines. The program will also waive copays for telehealth services and relax prescription refill requirements.

The state’s Family Support Division will also waive work requirements for able-bodied adults without dependents for 90 days, as part of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program

A soldier at Fort Leonard Wood has tested positive for COVID-19. This is the first positive case of Army personnel at the installation. The base has not revealed the gender of the patient. 

The soldier had recently traveled to New York and Florida. Upon returning to Fort Leonard Wood, the soldier was immediately screened and placed in isolation. The soldier remains in isolation on the base under medical care.

Military and local health professionals are in the process of tracing and contacting people with whom the soldier might have had contact over the past two weeks. Base medical staff will continue to screen service members.

— Shahla Farzan, Holly Edgell

Gov. Mike Parson announced new social distancing measures to limit social interactions in Missouri. 

Parson said he’s prohibiting social gatherings of more than 10 people in a single place. The order also prohibits people from eating at dine-in restaurants, though drive-in, pickup and delivery are still allowed. Nursing- and retirement-home visits will also be prohibited unless to provide critical assistance.

“The more that people reduce their public contact, the sooner COVID-19 will be contained, and the sooner this order will expire,” Parson said Saturday.

Grocery stores, gas stations, parks and banks will remain open while schools will remain closed. The order will take effect Monday and will remain until April 6 unless extended.

Responding to the new stay-at-home restrictions announced Saturday for St. Louis and St. Louis County, St. Charles County Executive Steve Ehlmann responded that his county would not be following suit.

“I do not believe we are in a situation where government should be deciding which businesses must close and which may stay open,” Ehlmann said. “We will continue to educate our residents that they should stay home except to go to work and procure the services they feel are essential. If businesses and residents work together to do what is right at this critical time, we will be doing everything we need to do right now to slow the spread of this disease.”

A man who traveled internationally is the second Madison County person to have tested positive for coronavirus, the county’s health department announced Saturday, according to the Belleville News-Democrat.

Looking for new reading material? Apotheosis Comics & Lounge on South Grand Boulevard is now offering free home delivery.

— Chad Davis, Shahla Farzan, Holly Edgell

St. Louis and St. Louis County have announced new restrictions to reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus. County Executive Sam Page and Mayor Lyda Krewson announced the decision jointly on Saturday. The new restrictions, which take effect Monday, will require people to stay at home when possible.

After Monday, residents will still be able to go to the grocery store and the pharmacy and take a walk in a public park in both jurisdictions. 

The first person to die from COVID-19 in St. Louis County, a woman in her 60s, was a nurse at SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital in Richmond Heights. 

In a statement, SSM called the woman a “beloved member” of its community and a “hero in the truest sense.” 

St. Louis County Executive Sam Page said the patient, who was diagnosed with COVID-19 this week, had underlying health issues. Officials are not sure how she contracted the new coronavirus but have not yet called it a case of community spread. Her death is the third related to COVID-19 in Missouri.

Meanwhile, there is a second case of the virus in St. Charles County. A woman in her 50s traveled to Illinois and was briefly in contact with someone there who later tested positive for the disease.

Two Mizzou employees have tested positive for COVID-19. Both individuals have self-quarantined and are recovering at home, according to a University of Missouri statement. Public health officials are now working to identify anyone who might have been in contact with the two employees.

Missouri State Parks has closed visitor centers, park offices and site offices through April 30. All state parks remain open to the public, including day-use areas, lodging, campgrounds and trails. Parks staff will be available on-site or by phone to answer visitor questions.

Two Metro East hospitals are no longer allowing visitors. Memorial Hospital in Belleville and Memorial Hospital East in Shiloh announced late Friday night they have restricted entrances and instituted a “no visitor” policy. 

Certain patients are still allowed to have visitors, with some restrictions, including those seeking emergency services, surgery patients, obstetrical patients, hospice patients and pediatric inpatients.

Vehicle emissions testing stations in Illinois are closed through at least April 7, beginning Saturday. All vehicle registration expiration dates have been extended by 30 days, according to the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency.

— Shahla Farzan, Holly Edgell

Good morning! We are continuing to monitor developments related to the coronavirus pandemic. Most Illinois residents will be staying home nearly all of the time starting at 5 p.m., due to the shelter-in-place order from Gov. J.B. Pritzker. Many Missouri residents have already started working from home or have been sent home because their places of work have closed. 

Meanwhile, workers at essential businesses in both states are on the job — at grocery stores, gas stations, pharmacies and other businesses we rely on.

Here are the latest numbers of cases in our region:

  • St. Louis metro: 24 confirmed cases, one death
  • Missouri: 73 confirmed cases, three deaths, 395 people tested as of Friday morning (no testing updates on Saturday morning)
  • Illinois: 585 confirmed cases, five deaths, 4286 people tested

You can track the state numbers for Missouri and Illinois.

We've been answering your questions about the coronavirus situation as best we can, and you can find a lot of information here. Do you have questions about what's happening? Submit them here and we'll work to get answers. Keep emailing my colleague Lindsay Toler about what life in these times is like for you: ltoler@stlpublicradio.org

We’ll update this live blog over the weekend, but we’re also trying to give our reporters and editors time to rest, unplug and stay healthy. It’s a difficult balance. Thank you for being patient as we work it out.

— Holly Edgell

A woman in her 60s from St. Louis County is the third person to die in Missouri due to COVID-19, the illness caused by the new coronavirus. St. Louis County health officials said the patient, who had a number of underlying health conditions, died at Mercy Hospital.

While the patient did not have any travel history, officials hesitated to call it a case of community spread, which means the exact way the person contracted the virus is not traceable.

St. Louis County Executive Sam Page said he is constantly reviewing the county’s policies on gatherings, and did not rule out a future stay-at-home order, like the one Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced on Friday.

A member of the Missouri House of Representatives has tested positive for COVID-19, the chamber’s leadership said in a statement.

“We are still working to notify members and staff that might have been in contact with the member and have requested all employees stay out of the Capitol for at least the next 10 days. While we learn more and work closely with DHSS to take every precaution necessary, we keep this member and their family in our thoughts and prayers in their battle to return back to health,” said the statement from Speaker of the House Elijah Haahr (R-Springfield), Minority Leader Crystal Quade (D-Springfield), Speaker Pro Tem John Wiemann (R-O’Fallon), Majority Floor Leader Rob Vescovo (R-Arnold), Assistant Majority Floor Leader J. Eggleston (R-Maysville), and Assistant Minority Floor Leader Tommie Pierson Jr. (D-St. Louis).

Sources told St. Louis Public Radio that the individual was last at the Capitol on March 12 and was not part of the committee working on the state budget for fiscal 2021. The House had been set to pass next year’s spending plan, but the chamber abruptly adjourned Tuesday after completing a supplemental to the current budget that included funding for coronavirus response. 

Metro Transit, which operates the region’s bus, light rail and paratransit services, has announced that it will suspend fare enforcement on its buses and Call-A-Ride services for 10 days, starting tomorrow. It is also implementing rear-door boarding, unless a passenger needs to use the lift or asks the bus to kneel.

Fare enforcement will continue on MetroLink.

The agency is also going to a modified weekend schedule starting Monday, March 23, until further notice. That will reduce the frequency of many bus routes. Express route service in Missouri is suspended completely.

Metro also announced Friday that starting Monday, all employees will be screened for a fever when they arrive at work. Those with a temperature of more than 100.4 degrees will be sent home and not allowed to return until they are fever-free and have a statement from their doctor.

Mercy Health is opening three more drive-thru sites to test patients for COVID-19. The three sites will be in Washington, south St. Louis County and Hillsboro. The St. Louis County and Washington sites will open next week. Mercy officials are still determining an opening date for the Hillsboro site.

Drive-thru tests allow workers to test patients with minimal exposure to staff and other patients and thus slow the spread of the disease. 

The first drive-thru testing facility opened last week in Chesterfield and has since collected samples from more than 440 patients. 

Mercy officials warn patients they will not be tested if they show up at the site without first making an appointment with Mercy using its COVID-19 clinical support telephone number. Doctors will determine if the patient meets criteria for testing, which include symptoms such as a fever of over 100.4 and shortness of breath, and exposure to an infected person or travel to an area with a high number of cases.

The St. Louis County Council voted unanimously Friday to allow the council to meet remotely and to allow members of the public to submit written testimony in lieu of speaking publicly at the regular council meetings. 

Council chairwoman Lisa Clancy, D-Maplewood, said the measures are needed to ensure the county council can continue to function during the coronavirus outbreak. Written public testimony will be limited to 400 words and must be submitted at least an hour before council meetings start, said Diann Valenti, the county clerk, during the meeting. 

The council took its votes during a meeting that was livestreamed over the internet and telephone, but which members of the public and media were not allowed to attend in person. It lasted fewer than 10 minutes. The council meets again at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday.

— Rachel Lippmann, Julie O’Donoghue, Sarah Fentem, Holly Edgell, Jason Rosenbaum

There are now a total of 585 cases of coronavirus in Illinois. The state Department of Public Health today announced 163 new cases of COVID-19. 

Three additional counties have reported cases: Adams, Christian and McLean. COVID-19 has been confirmed in 25 Illinois counties.

Illinois is working to increase testing capacity by working with hospitals to set up testing in their facilities. The state is also working with the federal government, Walmart and Walgreens to set up drive-thru testing sites in the hardest-hit areas of the state.

The 22nd Circuit — the court that serves the city of St. Louis — has suspended all evictions until April 19.

The order issued Friday by Presiding Judge Rex Burlison also tells the sheriff’s department to stop officially notifying people that they are being sued or have to provide documents or information — what’s known as service of process. Individuals can still file lawsuits, but the official legal process on those cases will not begin until further notice.

Extraditions are also suspended until further notice.

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson on Friday said he would restrict any gatherings statewide to no more than 10 people.

Parson said the restriction will take effect Saturday, when he announces more details of the plan. He said it would be up to individual business to decide how to comply.

Parson also announced the second death in the state from the coronavirus, an 80-year-old woman from Jackson County. The woman had not recently traveled, and officials don’t know how she contracted the disease.

The union representing Missouri’s grocery clerks and pharmacy technicians wants Gov. Mike Parson to classify them as emergency workers.

In a letter to the governor, the United Food and Commercial Workers leaders call on Parson to take actions already seen in states like Minnesota and Vermont, where its members are classified as emergency first responders and subject to additional benefits under the law. 

Those benefits include priority testing and access to medical care, additional security on the job, and wage guarantees if unable to work due to COVID-19.

"Front-line grocery and pharmacy workers are showing more courage than the governor of Missouri as they stand in front of customers who are potential carriers of the coronavirus," said David Cook, president of United Food & Commercial Workers Local 655.

— Fred Ehrlich, Rachel Lippmann and Holly Edgell

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker has issued new sweeping restrictions on movement in the state, the latest steps he has taken to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

The order, which goes into effect March 21 at 5 p.m., closes all nonessential businesses, including hair salons, retail shops and recreational businesses like bowling alleys. It does not apply to grocery stores, pharmacies or other essential services like gas stations. Transit and roads will not be closing down, and restaurants will still be able to provide takeout if they wish.

People are still able to leave their houses for walks and other exercise as long as they are not under quarantine for COVID-19 exposure or infection.

Read our full story: Illinois Gov. Pritzker Orders Residents To ‘Stay Home,’ Nonessential Businesses To Close

— Rachel Lippmann

Missouri will not boot people off Medicaid until the end of the federal emergency declaration in response to the new coronavirus outbreak.

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services is relaxing rules for those covered by the state health insurance program for poor families and people with disabilities. Adult Medicaid recipients who test positive for COVID-19 will have their benefits extended for three months.

State officials are waiving application fees and telehealth co-pays and easing requirements for prescription refills. They’re also waiving the requirement that food stamp recipients work to receive benefits. Those who receive child care subsidies will have their benefits extended 90 days.

The new provisions align the state with new federal requirements in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act that President Trump signed into law this week. The package includes requirements for paid sick leave for some jobs, free testing and expanded benefits. 

Looking for takeout or delivery food? Explore St. Louis has launched a website to help you. Take It Home STL keeps updated hours and delivery information for all restaurants that opt in to the system.

The site also has information on other ways to support restaurants, like buying gift cards, as well as information on the latest food preparation practices to keep employees and customers safe from COVID-19.

Transit riders, Metro Buses and MetroLink trains are being cleaned throughout the day and every night during the coronavirus outbreak. 

Bi-State Development President Taulby Roach said Thursday night that if a rider is showing symptoms of COVID-19, such as coughing, the bus or train car will be pulled and disinfected. Metro does not plan to reduce service during the coronavirus outbreak, according to its website

Small businesses across Missouri and Illinois will be able to access federal loans to blunt the economic impact of the pandemic.

Worth up to $2 million, the low-interest loans can be used to “pay fixed debts, payroll, accounts payable and other bills that cannot be paid because of the disaster’s impact,” said Jovita Carranza, administrator of the Small Business Administration, which manages the loan program.

Any small business in Illinois is eligible, as are Missouri businesses in the city of St. Louis and St. Louis, St. Charles, Jefferson, Lincoln and Pike counties.

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson on Thursday directed two state departments to seek similar assistance for all of the state's small businesses. 

Business leaders in St. Louis and Kansas City have issued an urgent call to Parson to immediately order uniform social distancing across the state.

The letter, obtained by our public radio colleagues in Kansas City, was signed by the heads of St. Louis organizations, AllianceSTL, the Regional Business Council, Civic Progress, Arch to Park, Mercy, BJCHealthCare and SSM; Kansas City organizations, St. Luke's Health System and the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce; and CoxHealth in Springfield

Parson has said repeatedly he will not order the closure of businesses, because the needs of rural and urban communities are much different. 

Read more: Missouri Business Leaders Beg Gov. Parson To Order COVID-19 Restrictions: ‘Missouri Must Act Now’

Editor’s note: This post was updated at 2 p.m. to correct the number of organization leaders that signed the letter sent to Gov. Mike Parson.

— Sarah Fentem, Rachel Lippmann and Kae Petrin

Good morning, and thank you! We really appreciated hearing from so many of you yesterday. It was great to hear how you’re holding up and what you think of this blog. Keep emailing me about what life under self-quarantine is like for you: ltoler@stlpublicradio.org

We’re going to use these first-of-the-day posts to update you on how many confirmed cases there are in our bi-state region. The numbers are changing constantly now, so remember that what you see here in the morning might be out of date by noon. 

  • St. Louis metro: 23 cases, no deaths
  • Missouri: 28 confirmed cases, one death, 395 people tested
  • Illinois: 422 confirmed cases, four deaths, 3,150 people tested

Want to see the numbers for yourself? Here’s where we’re keeping track for Missouri and Illinois. We’ve noticed that tallies for individual counties are taking a little longer to update. We’ll use a combination of those sites and announcements by county and city health departments to inform our count for the bi-state St. Louis area.

The city of St. Louis has added 10 public handwashing stations in high-traffic areas for people without access to running water. Read more about how the city is bracing for coronavirus among people who are experiencing homelessness: St. Louis-Area Providers Of Homeless Services Brace For Coronavirus.

And we’re updating our coronavirus Q&A with new questions and answers. Don’t see your question answered? Ask us here.

We’ll update this live blog over the weekend, but we’re also trying to give our reporters and editors time to rest, unplug and stay healthy. It’s a difficult balance. Thank you for being patient as we work it out.

— Lindsay Toler

There will be no Missouri education assessment tests for schoolchildren this year.

Commissioner of Education Margie Vandeven canceled the testing Thursday, saying, “There is a time and place for statewide required assessments, and now is not the time.”

All schools in the state are now closed, with no clear timetable for resumption of classes.

Coronavirus In The St. Louis Region: March 11-15, 2020

Mar 15, 2020
Four residents and two workers at a St. Louis nursing home have tested positive for coronavirus.
Nat Thomas | St. Louis Public Radio

This is archived content from our live blog following the coronavirus in the St. Louis region. View current updates here.

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.