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POST-DISPATCH: St. Louis, St. Louis County to reinstate mask mandate, some of first in US

St. Louis, St. Louis County to reinstate mask mandate, some of first in US

ST. LOUIS — Faced with a rising tide of COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations, St. Louis and St. Louis County leaders announced Friday that they will reinstate a mask requirement, for vaccinated and unvaccinated residents alike.

It is one of a few regions in the country to mandate masks again.

“We’ve lost more than 500 St. Louisans to COVID-19, and if our region doesn’t work together to protect one another, we could see spikes that overwhelm our hospital and public health systems,” St. Louis acting health director Dr. Fredrick Echols said in a statement.

Masks will be required beginning on Monday in indoor public places and on public transportation, officials said, without elaborating. Masks will be strongly encouraged outdoors, especially in group settings, but not required. The rule will apply to people age 5 and older. By a federal order that runs through mid-September, masks already are required on all public transportation.

The decision already is stirring talk of opposition, both locally and at the state level, but many health officials back the move.

Dr. Hilary Babcock, a BJC HealthCare representative in the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force, said the group is supportive of a renewed mask mandate. Babcock is an infectious disease expert at BJC and the Washington University School of Medicine.

The number of COVID-19 patients in BJC hospitals has more than tripled in the past six weeks, Babcock said. Area hospitals are not yet stretched as thin as those in southwest Missouri, but staffing is tight, and there is not a lot of room to accept transfer patients. BJC has not begun to scale back elective care yet, but, Babcock said, “we’re discussing all the options.”

The task force on Friday reported 318 total hospitalized virus patients across area BJC, Mercy, SSM Health and St. Luke’s Hospital facilities — up from 93 on June 9.

“This is clearly another surge,” Babcock said.

Missouri reported 2,865 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, and the seven-day average was at the same level as late January, according to a Post-Dispatch analysis. The state also reported 15 more deaths due to the virus.

Illinois reported 1,470 new cases of COVID-19. The seven-day average rose to 1,140, the highest level since late May, and the state reported seven more deaths due to the virus.

Melaney Arnold, spokeswoman for the Illinois Department of Public Health, said in an email Friday that the state is closely monitoring hospital resource availability but has not reinstituted a mask mandate.

P.O. Box 410091
Saint Louis, MO 63141
Paid for by Page for Missouri, Sue Felling, Treasurer

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