St. Louis and St. Louis County on Friday rescinded their mask mandates and social distancing requirements, aligning themselves with new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The CDC said Thursday that adults fully vaccinated from the coronavirus could safely resume activities indoors and outdoors without masks or distancing. The federal health officials said that advice applied to both large and small gatherings.
City and county officials announced that masks would no longer be required in most places and lifted restrictions on crowd sizes for public accommodations, large venues and other spaces where people gather. St. Louis County is still recommending that people wear masks when they are close to people who may not have been vaccinated.
“The pandemic is far from over,” said Dr. Fred Echols, St. Louis Department of Health director. “The city of St. Louis and St. Louis County are simply at a place where a new strategy can be implemented. We have arrived at a point in the pandemic where we have to lean more heavily on personal responsibility to prevent the spread of the virus.”
Echols said the city will rescind its 17 health orders issued throughout the pandemic. Many of the orders set limits on public gatherings.
County officials say fully vaccinated people should continue to wear masks in health care settings, correctional facilities and homeless shelters as the CDC recommends.
“It’s time to take this next step, which is to reinforce the message, get vaccinated, and you have the ability to shed your mask,” St. Louis County Executive Sam Page said. “Reinforce the message that businesses have the right to continue to require masks if they want to.”
Business owners have the right to ask patrons if they have been vaccinated, St. Louis and St. Louis County officials said.
“We want our businesses to be successful, and we know that each business is now considering whether or not to require masks of their patrons,” Page said. “Ultimately that decision will be up to each business owner.”
St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones said officials will work with businesses and entertainment venues to try to increase capacity over the coming weeks and months.
Regional leaders reiterated that the pandemic is not over and that people who are not fully vaccinated should still wear masks, as they remain at risk for contracting and spreading the virus.
“Let me be clear, if you are not vaccinated, going indoors or crowded areas without a face mask or face covering still puts you at risk for contracting COVID-19,” Jones said. Vaccination rates in St. Louis and St. Louis County remain low, she said — about 38% in the city.
The CDC on Wednesday approved the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for use in 12- to 15-year-olds.