Spike on virus cases prompts new face mask requirements

Associated Press
Bishop Floyd Williams, of End Times Christian Assembly in St. Louis, leaves with an arm full of face masks he picked up for his congregation, Thursday, May 28, 2020, in Hanley Hills, Mo.

O'FALLON — The rapidly rising number of confirmed new coronavirus cases has prompted facial- covering requirements in several areas of Missouri, including the state's largest city.

The state health department on Friday reported 662 new cases of the COVID-19 virus. A day earlier, the 795 reported cases broke the one-day record of 773 set on Tuesday. In the first five days of the week, Missouri has reported 3,225 new cases, by far the most of any week since the pandemic began.

Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas on Friday extended the requirement to wear a facial covering through at least Aug. 15. The original face mask order that went into effect June 29 was scheduled to expire Sunday, but the Kansas City area has averaged nearly 300 new cases per day over the past week, the Kansas City Star reported.

"As we've seen in a number of other jurisdictions, there continues to be significant concerns with the spread of COVID-19, continuing taxation on certain public health and medical resources, and that's why we are taking the ongoing steps we will today," Lucas, a Democrat, said at a news conference.

Kansas City also is maintaining it 50% capacity limit for drinking establishments, Lucas said.

Earlier this month, St. Louis city and county both began requiring face coverings when inside businesses and other public places, and outside when social distancing is not possible.

St. Louis County and city were hit harder than the rest of the state early in the pandemic. The number of cases had been declining, but the county has averaged 112 new cases each day this week, compared to a daily average of 85 last week.

The Joplin City Council voted this week to require face masks. Jasper County has reported 733 new cases in the past month, most of them in Joplin.

St. Joseph Mayor Bill McMurray on Thursday issued an order requiring facial coverings in large retail stores. The Springfield City Council will consider a mask requirement when it meets Monday.

Missouri was among the earliest states to reopen. Republican Gov. Mike Parson and the state health director, Randall Williams, have pointed to a decrease in hospitalizations since the virus peaked and a drop in the rate of the virus' spread between people in an attempt to reassure Missourians that the state overall is managing the virus well. 

State health officials say new cases are being spread primarily by young people who infect many others. Health department spokeswoman Lisa Cox said the average age of newly diagnosed cases in the past week was 37.4. 

Cox said younger, healthier people are more likely to have mild symptoms and a fast recovery. "On the negative side, it's easy for them to carry the virus to someone older or with underlying conditions," she said in an email.

All told, 26,661 Missourians have had confirmed cases of the virus since the pandemic began, though officials suspect the actual number is much higher because many people with mild or no symptoms do not get tested. The death toll in Missouri stands at 1,064, an increase of 13 from Thursday.


Ballentine reported from Columbia, Missouri.