This is the County Executive Report I gave at the County Council meeting on May 12, 2020. You are welcome to attend County Council meetings, which are currently conducted by webinar; they are open to the public and feature time for public comment. You can find information on the next meeting and dial-in information in the events section at www.stlouisco.com.
Thank you, Lisa, and good evening everyone –
This morning, I attended the opening of a drive-through testing site at North Oaks Plaza.
The new testing site, which had 100 cars waiting in line, is a partnership between the St. Louis County NAACP and Affinia Healthcare, which opened a similar drive-through testing site in Jennings last month.
We know that more testing is needed, and we continue working vigorously to get access to more tests.
Expanded testing, especially in high-risk communities, allows us to have a better handle on not just who is sick but who is carrying the virus and does not know it. Without that information in hand, we cannot responsibly relax social distancing measures or allow large gatherings.
That’s why these measures remain in place as we begin on Monday to reopen the county in a slow, cautious way.
Saving lives will always be the priority. But we must try our best to balance that with getting our economy going again. This gradual reopening is one way to do that.
Through the CARES Act grant that St. Louis County received, we have been able to set up a Small Business Relief Fund, which will provide up to $17.5 million to be divided among our seven districts.
I want to thank the council for all your work on this and work to come, reviewing applications and helping the small businesses who need it the most. This is an important lifeline, and I’m grateful we have some funding to help.
We want all businesses to succeed and I know many of our businesses that have had to close, or scale back are struggling. I also know that many of our businesses are not comfortable with opening as early as Monday.
And that’s OK. Businesses should open when they feel they can safely do so for their employees and their customers.
The data we use to determine how we proceed includes the information collected by our healthcare systems. And the numbers released daily by the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force provide hopeful signs.
Hospitalizations, ICU admissions and the number of people on ventilators are all trending down. It shows that people are being responsible by social distancing, avoiding crowds and wearing masks.
But people are still getting sick, especially among our vulnerable populations.
Our nursing homes here and across the country have been hit particularly hard.
These are our mothers, father, sisters and brothers and with these outbreaks, the isolation they often feel is made worse with visitor restrictions in place.
The county has 174 long-term care facilities, and we are working closely with them to ensure they have all they need to help keep their residents safe.
We are fortunate to have a large pool of healthcare professionals in St. Louis County and we’ve tapped into that valuable resource in forming the High-Risk Task Force.
This is a group of volunteers with healthcare backgrounds, many of them retired. Each volunteer is given a list of long-term care facilities to check in with on a regular basis.
They check in on the welfare of residents and employees and see what needs they may have including more PPE. St. Louis County has provided more than 20,000 masks to these facilities so far.
Within the week, we should have in place our newly formed Quick Reaction Team, which will respond when the Health Department identifies a hot spot in a communal living space.
The team goes in with testing, training, PPE and conducts a deep cleaning. They are in and out in a day. The team can be deployed 24-7.
We know that this pandemic is actually three crises: a public health crisis, a humanitarian crisis and an economic crisis. Our response must address all three.
Tomorrow, we will award more than 2.5 million in CARES Acts grants to five agencies that connect food with people. The need has always been great. But now with this pandemic, we are seeing people wait in line for hours to receive bags of food.
No child should go hungry. Using money from the federal relief grant we received will ease the burden that too many families face daily. The money given to these agencies will provide thousands of meals across our county over the next several months.
Our Department of Public Health has built robust programs focused on testing, contact tracing, and deploying personal protective equipment.
We have notified vendors that we want to purchase 100,000 tests, and we should know week how many are available to buy and at what speed we can expect them to arrive.
We have commissioned a study to determine exactly how different areas of the community are impacted by the virus.
We are using new contact tracing software that makes this critical process more efficient while hiring 100 more case investigators to do this important work.
We have begun distributing 200,000 masks that we recently received and are working with school districts, clergy and social service organizations to determine where need is greatest. We anticipate having another 750,000 masks for distribution by Memorial Day.
To continue slowing the spread, everyone must act responsibly. One exception can result in multiple infections.
This virus is contagious. This virus continues to perplex doctors and scientist in the way it manifests itself. The list of symptoms related to COVID-19 continues to grow.
Until we have a vaccine, we all must continue to proceed with caution.
That’s all I have for now. Thanks, Lisa.