County Executive Sam Page and St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones together served up some good news for area restaurateurs and citizens on Monday.
They announced a joint executive order on the continued reopening of businesses in the St. Louis region. The days of the city and County working independently on COVID-19 response have ended.
“You may have heard me say these past few months [that] St. Louis deserves a more regional approach to our big issues,” Jones said.
“Well, today, I’m proud to take a big first step with the (County Executive) to introduce new reopen STL health orders that align the city and the county’s COVID-19 responses for the first time.”
Page said “Thousands of people a day toggle between the city and the county to work, attend school, dine out, shop, and worship.”
“While the responses of the city and county have been similar, they have not always been in sync.”
Businesses will no longer be under capacity restrictions based on a percentage of fire code capacity of an indoor space. Maximum capacity will continue to be “limited by the requirement of social distancing.” Tables still must be six feet apart and other COVID safety protocols must be followed.
Bar and restaurant curfews are loosened, as establishments can again stay open until 3 a.m. instead of midnight for the first time in a year.
Both Jones and Page warned that the region is not returning to pre-pandemic “normal.”
Individuals entering any business must still stay masked, even though fully-vaccinated people no longer must be masked while outdoors.
The order requires that gatherings of more than 500 people must be approved by respective Departments of Health.
“We have forms that need to be completed before approving large-scale events,” Jones explained.
“We’ve been doing this for many months with our Convention and Visitors Commission, and we should see (attendance) expansion, also, to our sports facilities.”
Both the Mayor and the County Executive said increased vaccination availability led to the modifications.
The region is far from past the COVID-19 crisis. The Pandemic Response Task Force noted last week that hospital admissions are not decreasing, but rather plateauing. Newer variants of the virus continue to spread.
President Biden said Tuesday he foresees 70 percent of Americans having at least one vaccination shot by July 4 and that the U.S. “is ready to move” when vaccinations are approved for young teenages between 12 and 15.
Any individual over 16 can now get a vaccine in the St. Louis area. A FEMA mass vaccination site at America’s Dome downtown is open to anyone (not just city residents) from 8 a.m.-6 p.m. daily. Free parking is available, as are public transit vouchers.
In addition, through the St. Louis Area Agency on Aging, any homebound individual can have a vaccine delivered and administered to them.
Page said the “vast majority” of businesses complied with public health orders for the past year.
“It’s your overwhelming compliance to public health protocols and the wide access to the vaccine that has us ready to take these next steps, the important steps, that we’re going to take together.”
As always, we encourage those who have not been vaccinated to do so as soon as possible,” Jones said.
“This is the new normal, not a return to normal. Please stay vigilant, stay masked up, continue to wash your hands and stay socially distant.”