COVID-19 | St. Louis Public Radio

COVID-19

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 or outside when social distancing isn’t possible. People with certain health conditions such as respiratory problems will be exempt from the requirement. 

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.

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.

Michael Rozier
Michael Rozier

As an assistant professor of health management and policy at St. Louis University, Michael Rozier is used to thinking a lot about matters of public health — and finding plenty of reasons for hope. His research focuses on the shift toward preventative health care efforts, as well as how ethical and moral rhetoric can advance health care policy. But last week, with COVID-19 case numbers in the U.S. suggesting any end to the pandemic is still a long way off, he took to Twitter to offer some less-than-optimistic predictions.

“Sadly, I'm becoming convinced that #COVID is not far from taking on the characteristics of #gunviolence,” Rozier tweeted. “[The U.S.] will endure much higher, persistent negative effects from something that other countries have solved; we'll normalize it and convince ourselves nothing can be done.” The tweet was off the cuff, but it quickly gained traction online, with both those in agreement and those who found it too pessimistic weighing in.

When physician Erik Martin left his home in southwest Missouri to help with New York’s COVID-19 outbreak in April, his county had fewer than 10 confirmed cases of the virus. Now he’s back — and watching those numbers skyrocket. More than 400 Jasper County residents have tested positive, and more than 800 are in quarantine.

“I never expected that within such a short period of time, my home town would become a COVID hotspot, as it has now," Martin says. He was alarmed when he learned a patient who tested positive worked at the Butterball poultry processing plant in nearby Carthage. After seeing a second Butterball worker, Martin alerted the county health department to the potential outbreak.

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.

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 than 1,000 people in the bi-state St. Louis region and nearly that many across Missouri have died of COVID-19 as of this week. 061920
Kristen Radtke for NPR

More than 1,000 people have now died of COVID-19 in the bi-state St. Louis area. 

The region surpassed the grim milestone late this week, about 90 days since a St. Louis County woman became the first in the metro area to die of the illness caused by the coronavirus. 

St. Louis County alone accounts for about half of the deaths, though it makes up around a third of the region’s population. St. Louis and St. Clair County each has seen more than 100 of their residents die of COVID-19. 

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.

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.”

Nurse Nellie Smith (L) holds down the hand of eight year-old Kayden Tree, before inserting a swab into his nose during a COVID-19 test, at a CareSTL Health testing Site, in St. Louis on Monday, May 11, 2020.
File photo | Bill Greenblatt | UPI

St. Louis and St. Louis County officials are urging people who may have contracted the coronavirus to get tested, even if they don’t have a cough, fever or other common symptoms.

County Executive Sam Page said Wednesday that two county-run health centers will begin providing free testing to people without symptoms on Monday. And St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson announced last week that asymptomatic people can now be tested for the virus for free at federally qualified health centers in the city and county.

Previously, testing has only been available to people who had symptoms or had been in contact with someone who was positive for the virus.

Thousands demonstrated in from of St. Louis City Hall and marched through downtown Sunday June 7, 2020, with calls for police reform.
File photo | Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

Before 19-year-old Sydney Alexander goes out to protest in the St. Louis area, she makes sure she has all of the protective gear necessary to prevent contracting COVID-19.

That means wearing a mask and gloves and trying her best to remain socially distant from others. As an African American woman whose father contracted the coronavirus in April, she’s afraid. But she’s determined to make her voice heard because she’s tired of hearing about and watching horrific scenes.

For Alexander, this season of pain points to a difficult reality for black people.

“Are you going to be killed by the virus, and that’s a big if, or are you going to be hurt or brutalized or killed by the police?” Alexander asked.

The pandemic forced many large buildings to close, including theaters, schools and stadiums. Researchers warn that the stagnant water sitting in the pipes of these buildings may have accumulated pathogens and heavy metals.
Nat Thomas | St. Louis Public Radio

After sitting empty for months, offices and commercial buildings in St. Louis are beginning to reopen — many with freshly installed Plexiglas barriers to protect workers from passing the coronavirus.

But researchers warn of other health risks that may be lurking in the plumbing systems of these once-shuttered buildings.

With fewer users, pipes have held stagnant water for weeks or months at a time. Some waterborne pathogens thrive in this environment, while heavy metals can slowly leach out of aging pipes. The sheer number of unoccupied buildings during the pandemic has some researchers concerned about a potential spike in waterborne illnesses. 

For marriages already under stress, sheltering at home probably didn't help couples.
Reva G | Flickr

In many cases, real estate transactions are a happy occasion. First-time homebuyers smile and hold up keys. Families move from one locale to another and begin exciting new chapters. But for others, selling or buying a home can be an enormous headache that’s just one part of a bigger mess: a divorce. And with the COVID-19 crisis, some lawyers have reported an increase in inquiries from people thinking about splitting up.

St. Louis native Kathy Helbig has spent 25 years working in the region’s real estate industry. In that time, she’s helped many clients make these complex shifts as they try to work together — separately and as cordially as possible. And now, she’s Missouri’s first certified “divorce real estate specialist,” having recently undergone 40 hours of virtual training toward that end.

On Monday’s St. Louis on the Air, Helbig joined host Sarah Fenske to talk about what makes real estate transactions particularly tricky while divorcing. She also touched on the housing market trends she’s been observing during the coronavirus pandemic.

Frontier Health and Rehabilitation, a nursing home in St. Charles on March 27, 2020.
File Photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

At least 253 nursing home residents in Missouri have died from COVID-19, according to the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

In data released this week, the agency named dozens of Missouri nursing homes with at least one COVID-19 case. The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services has withheld that data, citing privacy concerns.

The data covers the period through May 31. State health officials say there were 771 COVID deaths at that time.

Live Updates: Coronavirus In The St. Louis Region

Jun 4, 2020
CareSTL Health's COVID-19 testing site in north St. Louis will reopen on April 27.
Nat Thomas | St. Louis Public Radio

 Noon Thursday, June 4

As we said in our note Tuesday, we are suspending the blog to focus our newsroom’s resources on other important stories in our region. Many readers wrote to us asking where or how they can keep up with data about how quickly the coronavirus is spreading in our region.

Consider this a parting gift that will keep on giving: St. Louis Public Radio has built a dashboard that will update daily with information about how many new coronavirus cases and deaths we have in our bi-state region. 

Josiah Gooden, a graduating senior from McCluer North High School, attends a drive-in commencement Sunday, May 31, 2020.
Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

There was a visible addition to the commencement regalia and pomp for McCluer North High School class of 2020: face masks.

When the seniors paraded into a parking lot at the former St. Louis Mills Mall Sunday, they had face masks with their school’s logo and graduation year to match their caps and gowns. It was all part of an attempt to orchestrate a socially distanced graduation ceremony and give these teens a proper send-off after so much else in their senior year was missed.

St. Louis Public Radio

Data on COVID-19 is imperfect. States are tracking it in different ways. The availability of testing has been different in different places. Not everyone with the virus becomes symptomatic enough to realize they should be tested. And not everyone who has died received a test.

Still, one of the most pressing questions is, "Are cases increasing or decreasing?" Given the imperfections in the data we have, it is difficult to answer that question with certainty. But we can share what we do have. This table and these graphs will update daily with numbers compiled by the New York Times. They show levels of new cases and deaths for various regions in Missouri and Illinois.

Heather Mitchell
Heather Mitchell

When Heather Mitchell saw those viral Lake of the Ozarks images of not so socially distanced partying over Memorial Day weekend, she felt concern and frustration — like many people. But she also saw the situation as a clear example of the various ways humans respond when new information conflicts with previously held beliefs.

Mitchell is an associate professor of psychology at Webster University. She specializes in cognitive psychology, which includes attention to cognitive dissonance. And in the age of COVID-19, that means exploring how people deal with that psychological conflict — and the ways they rectify the uncomfortable disharmony between their beliefs and behaviors.

“Human beings, we really want to be consistent, and, in fact, a really important motivation for us is to maintain that consistency with the way we’re thinking and feeling and behaving,” Mitchell explained on Wednesday’s St. Louis on the Air.

Ferguson residents vote at Griffith Elementary School in Ferguson, Missouri. Residents voted in person for the first time since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. June 2, 2020
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

Residents across the St. Louis area came out to vote Tuesday in Missouri's first elections since officials enacted stay-at-home orders to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

Tuesday’s municipal elections were originally scheduled for April 7. Gov. Mike Parson signed an executive order in March to postpone the election to June as the virus spread across the state. 

On Tuesday, many voters wore masks and other personal protective gear and stayed socially distant from others waiting to vote.

Sport Clips Haircuts in Ballwin was among the businesses in St. Louis and St. Louis County that reopened Monday. Phone lines were tied up at the salon and by the afternoon its website showed wait times longer than two hours.
File Photo | David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

The St. Louis region has avoided a spike in coronavirus hospitalizations after officials lifted stay-at-home orders. But doctors say people need to continue to take precautions to limit the spread of the virus and prevent deaths.

The number of new hospital admissions due to COVID-19 has stayed relatively flat or decreased since St. Louis and St. Louis County allowed some businesses to re-open in mid-May.

But that doesn’t mean that the region is out of the woods yet, said Dr. Alexis Elward, an infectious disease specialist and chief medical officer at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. She said that the virus is still circulating, and that if people aren’t careful, another spike in cases could overwhelm hospitals.

Students cross Grand Boulevard on St. Louis University's campus Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2018.
File Photo | David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

Universities in the St. Louis region are releasing plans to return students back to campus this fall, but they come with a warning.

School administrators say they are prepared to shift instruction online and send students home like they did this spring if coronavirus cases again spike during the fall semester. Most plan to begin the school year with in-person learning while implementing social distancing measures on campus. 

St. Louis County Executive Sam Page and county municipalities are trying to hash out a deal to send federal money to municipal police and fire departments.
David Kovaluk I St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis County could send roughly $47 million of federal coronavirus relief money to municipalities to help pay for police and fire-related services.

St. Louis County received $173.5 million in federal funds from the CARES Act, which Congress passed earlier this year to deal with the coronavirus pandemic. And St. Louis County Executive Sam Page and the Municipal League of Metro St. Louis appear to be in agreement that $47 million should be sent to municipalities to help with public safety costs.

Nat Thomas | St. Louis Public Radio

Church bells will be ringing on Sunday more than usual in communities throughout Missouri.

Several faith groups have called on churches to ring their bells for two minutes at noon to recognize essential workers and memorialize those who have died of COVID-19.

The Rev. Deon Johnson, bishop-elect of the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri, said that in addition to prayer, ringing bells is one way he hopes people can show their support for people in their own communities. 

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