This is the County Executive Report I gave at the County Council meeting on May 5, 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.
Good evening everyone.
Two months ago, the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in St. Louis County. It also was the first case in the state of Missouri.
Since that March 7 announcement, the cases in St. Louis County have jumped to more than 3,500, with 189 deaths.
St. Louis County continues to have, by far, the most cases in the state, and with increased testing, we know the numbers will continue to grow.
Along with the city of St. Louis, we represent 55% of the cases in Missouri.
But the response to COVID-19 is not a one-size-fits all. We have neighborhoods that have been neglected for decades, with lack of access to healthcare and healthy food options. As a result, those living in these communities are disproportionately affected by this virus.
We have targeted May 18 for lifting some of the restrictions in St. Louis County. Social distancing will continue to be emphasized. More details will be provided later in the week. A re-opening must be thoughtful and deliberate.
I spoke with Gov. Parson today and he supports local decisions to move in a way that makes sense for our unique circumstances.
I also spoke to Dr. Garza this afternoon.
I’ve said all along that we must let data drive our decision. That includes the number of new cases we get each day and the number of hospitalizations.
Yesterday marked the lowest hospitalization numbers in more than a week. That’s encouraging. The CDC recommends a two-week trend of reduced hospitalizations before relaxing restrictions. And we’re getting there. We must have adequate testing in our community. We are not yet there but we are making progress.
We also must get our economy going strong again. We must get people back to work.
But we must do it in a responsible way that protects the lives of employees and their customers. If we move too quickly, we could see a second wave worse than the first. That would put our economy in an even more precarious position.
Last week, I announced that up to $17.5 million of our CARES Act grant would be distributed to small businesses in St. Louis County. Each of the seven county districts will receive $2.5 million to help businesses with costs associated with reopening safely. I appreciate that the Council is engaged in this important process.
Our Council members working closely with municipal leaders and others in their communities will help ensure the money gets to those who need it most.
This is a lifeline. It will not make anyone whole but will hopefully keep our businesses alive so that they can thrive again.
We need more testing for the community. That seems to be an ongoing challenge. We continue our aggressive pursuit of tests and should know by tomorrow afternoon how many we can get from a response to an invitation for bids.
More robust testing remains a challenge here and across the country. As we increase testing and hire at least 100 more people to do contact tracing, we will have a better idea of how many people have been exposed to the virus and how many people need treatment.
I’m proud that Pfizer chose its St. Louis County facility to produce a new vaccine for COVID-19 simultaneously with clinical trials. As a doctor, I’ve seen medicine save lives. But a vaccine would truly impact us all. St. Louis County has the resources and the talent to be a leader in this effort, and this is promising news for not just our region but the world.
I recognize the anxiety and tension that this pandemic has brought with it. As we focus on a re-opening of our County, it will bring frustration. The process of recovery – both from the virus itself and the weakened economy that it caused – will be slow.
Over the weekend, President George W. Bush released a powerful message of hope, resilience and the power of compassion. He said that empathy and simple kindness are essential, powerful tools of a national recovery. The same holds true for a regional recovery as well.
The suffering brought by this virus has not fallen evenly on this nation, or this County. We must commit to a recovery that ensures our communities long underserved -- our most vulnerable -- are not left behind.
That’s all for now. Thanks, Lisa.