ST. LOUIS COUNTY — St. Louis County Executive Sam Page announced a ban on events with more than 250 people Friday to slow the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus.
Page signed the executive order Friday that declares it "unlawful for any person to organize or to attend an intentional gathering of 250 people or more in a single space or room.”
The order also bans the same type of gathering of more than 10 people that are part of high-risk populations. Those include people older than 60, people with health conditions like heart disease or lung disease and diabetes, people with weakened immune systems or pregnant woman, according to county officials.
The order went into effect at 5 p.m. Friday.
"We believe that the decisions we are making today will save lives," Page said during a Friday morning press conference, adding: "We hope that everyone will exercise common sense and good will for our community and stay away from large gatherings.”
The ban does not apply to school attendance, work places, groceries or retail stores. Page said he does not have the authority to limit religious gatherings, adding that those leaders will need to decide how to respond to the virus.
Though no confirmed person-to-person cases of coronavirus have been found in the St. Louis area, Page said he and county public health officials believe "community transmission is here, it's just not recognized because some people have mild symptoms and it's also unrecognized because this is a new disease and we do not have a robust testing environment for it."
The two St. Louis County casinos – Hollywood in Maryland Heights and River City in Lemay, both operated by Penn National Gaming – were canceling concerts and events after the announcement of the ban Friday, but had no plans to close gaming floors.
“We don’t believe that affects the gaming floors per se,” said Missouri Gaming Association Executive Director Mike Winter. “It would be more events, concerts, those types of things.”
He said he doesn’t believe any casinos in the state currently have plans to close their floors.
St. Louis County spokesman Doug Moore said the county intended very few exceptions to the ban.
"It’s a blanket ban no matter what happening inside the casino," Moore said in an email. Moore added; "Businesses must use common sense here to ensure the health of their customers and employees."
The ban could be enforced by the county seeking a court order to shut down gatherings, county officials said.
Page's announcement mirrors those made in other states, but is more stringent than announcements made by St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson, Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas and Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker who banned all public events with more than 1,000 people Thursday.
So far, two travel-related cases of coronavirus have been confirmed in St. Louis County. No cases have been reported in the city of St. Louis. Gov. Mike Parson announced Thursday that a second person in Missouri had tested positive, in Greene County in southwestern Missouri.
As of Friday afternoon, there were 10 COVID-19 tests of St. Louis County residents still pending.
Jacob Barker and Robert Patrick of the Post-Dispatch contributed to this report.