St. Louis officials consider pulling back reopening

Associated Press
A sign hangs in the window of a popular sandwich shop that has temporarily closed due to the coronavirus Friday, May 1, 2020, in St. Louis. Business in some parts of Missouri will be allowed to reopen on Monday after the state's stay-at-home order expires while others in St. Louis will remain closed as restrictions in the city remain in place.

ST. LOUIS — St. Louis officials are considering whether to restore some of the restrictions that were imposed to stem the spread of the coronavirus as cases surge.

Mayor Lyda Krewson noted that "COVID numbers continue to not look very good" in announcing that meetings were taking place Wednesday and Thursday to discuss possible changes, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.

The state reported 708 new confirmed COVID-19 cases Thursday, bringing the total to 30,422, a 36% increase from two weeks ago. The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services also said the number of deaths increased by 10 to 1,113. 

The mayor's spokesman, Jacob Long, told The Associated Press on Thursday that no announcements are planned at this time but that Krewson and her staff are "remaining in constant conversation with our health care partners about possible next steps."

Dr. Alex Garza, director of the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force, which includes the area's four major hospital systems, said that there are "very few levers to pull, outside of then pulling back on those societal restrictions." 

A primary driver of new COVID-19 cases is infections among teens and young adults, who experience milder symptoms and faster recovery, including outbreaks from youth sports.

In St. Louis County, there have been six to eight new cases of COVID-19 reported daily in people ages 10 to 19, county officials said. At least two high schools, Eureka and Kirkwood, have reported cases in student-athletes participating in football workouts.

"We know that gatherings of young people and adults around youth sports are the primary source of spread in the community," County Executive Sam Page said at a news briefing Wednesday.

Other areas also have been hard hit. Just south of Kansas City in Cass County, 47 infections have been linked to a party that drew hundreds on the eve of Independence Day, health director Andrew Warlen told the AP on Thursday. The cases led the Pleasant Hill and Harrisonville school districts to shut down extracurricular activities for 14 days because some of the party-goers were involved in summer school activities.

"It tells us that COVID-19 is not gone," Warlen said in an email. "I saw a few comments on social media from those who were infected and the consensus was that they had not taken COVID-19 seriously and this situation made it much more REAL. Ironically, the audience at the party is not who is most at risk for an adverse outcome if infected. It is their parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, teachers, coaches, etc." 

Gov. Mike Parson has said he will not issue a statewide order requiring face coverings. But several cities are mandating them in an effort to reduce virus transmission. Among them is Springfield, where an ordinance took effect Thursday.