The town of Eureka is breaking ranks with the rest of St. Louis County and planning to reopen Monday, with its mayor telling residents the time has come to simultaneously deal with the coronavirus while getting the economy back on track.
O'FALLON — The town of Eureka is breaking ranks with the rest of St. Louis County and planning to reopen Monday, with its mayor telling residents the time has come to simultaneously deal with the coronavirus while getting the economy back on track.
Republican Missouri Gov. Mike Parson is lifting his statewide stay-at-home order effective Monday, but Democratic St. Louis County Executive Sam Page has extended the county's order until at least mid-May, citing concerns that reopening too soon could create a new wave of infections. Democratic leaders of St. Louis city, Kansas City and Jackson County also have extended stay-home orders through mid-May.
Eureka, a city of 10,000 residents that is the home of Six Flags St. Louis, is the first St. Louis County community to break from the county mandate.
"We can no longer follow the rules we are under without economic ruin," Eureka Mayor Sean Flower wrote in a letter posted Tuesday on Facebook. "We are going to need to learn to both deal with the virus, while at the same time opening our economy, restoring our kids' lives and opportunities, and taking care of our families and our country."
When coronavirus cases began to mount in March, several Missouri counties issued stay-at-home orders before Parson's statewide order that began April 6. Now, the urban cities and counties are alone in extending orders.
Even counties near St. Louis or Kansas City are opting to reopen. Leaders of Jefferson, Franklin and St. Charles counties near St. Louis, and Platte and Clay counties near Kansas City are all reopening Monday.
St. Louis County Executive Sam Page said it's simply too early. About half of Missouri's 314 deaths from COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, have occurred in St. Louis County, along with 2,958 of the state's 7,303 cases. The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested and people can be infected without feeling sick.
"I want the economy to be strong again, too," Page said during a news conference Wednesday. "I understand our businesses are suffering, our families are suffering, and we have to find a path forward."
But Page warned that Eureka businesses could risk legal complications if, for example, a worker or customer contracts the virus. He said the county will "certainly look at all of our legal options."
For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.
Parson said Tuesday that coronavirus hospitalizations across Missouri are down significantly since peaking at 1,142 on April 7 and have since declined dramatically everywhere except the St. Louis area, which has seen an 8% increase.
Parson said hospitalizations are down 41% in the Kansas City area, more than 60% in the northeast and southwest of the state, and 38% to 45% elsewhere. He said the drop in hospitalizations, along with other factors such as the increased availability of testing and ventilators, are evidence that the state can safely reopen.
Still, the state reported 26 new deaths Tuesday, bringing the total to 314, and 132 new confirmed cases.