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What Happened Last Week, December 20, 2021

What Happened Last Week, December 20, 2021

Each week, we do our best to help you stay on top of the news in the County. We're thrilled that so many people find this newsletter a useful resource! (Please share with your friends, who can sign up here: https://bit.ly/3nijXBs).

NOTE: Because we have new subscribers each week (welcome!) we will continue to highlight some items that have appeared in past issues. However, to make it easier for those of you who read What Happened Last Week each week (hello!) we will indicate new or edited content with two asterisks ** and a highlight. We hope that's helpful!

Here are a few reminders, and then we'll turn to this week's updates. (Plus: Read to the end for photos of this week's Pet of the Weekand FAQ!)

General Reminders:
Live Briefings: Dr. Page's press briefings are broadcast live on his County Executive facebook page; they are generally held on Mondays and Wednesdays at 8:30am. (https://www.facebook.com/CountyExecutiveSamPage/). See past briefings here: https://bit.ly/3l7ic9T.

County Council Meeting: The St. Louis County Council holds its meetings at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesdays; during that meeting Dr. Sam gives his weekly County Executive Report. You can now attend the meeting in person at 41 S. Central Avenue, or watch online. To speak during the public forum portion of the meeting, you must sign up outside of the chamber doors from 6-6:28 p.m. on the date of the meeting. All Council meetings are streamed exclusively to BoxCast. Members of the public can access the stream at https://boxcast.tv/channel/wdeojvfau9uqc9qt6k8z. **NOTE: The Council's December 21 meeting will be at 1:00pm.

This Week's Updates

**Masking litigation update: Last month, an elected state court judge in Cole County (Jefferson City) ruled that local health orders issued by local health departments – during a pandemic – are not valid, which has caused confusion among local public health departments across the state. The Department of Health and Human Services, which the Attorney General purportedly represented in the matter, asked the Attorney General to appeal the judge's ruling. The Attorney General refused to do so. (https://missouriindependent.com/2021/12/02/missouri-health-director-wanted-to-appeal-judges-covid-ruling-ag-schmitt-refused/)

Instead, the Attorney General has pledged to enforce the Cole County judge's ruling and has threatened school districts across the state with litigation if they enforce quarantine and/or mask requirements that were enacted through their elected school boards. In response, area schools are rescinding their mask requirements and a number of public health departments across the state have shuttered their COVID surveillance altogether – including contact tracing.

This is incredibly dangerous, and occurs while numbers are rising dramatically – we have more info below about the rise in schools in particular – and as the new Omicron variant gains a foothold.

Therefore, last Monday St. Louis and Jackson counties filed a motion to intervene in the case. In the motion to intervene, the counties said the Attorney General abdicated his duty when he refused to appeal the judge's ruling for DHSS and “instead elect[ed] to embark on a campaign of litigation terror against local governments and schools throughout the State.”

The motion highlighted the danger the ruling poses not just in containing COVID-19, but in dismantling public health surveillance of other diseases: "In short, if the Court’s Judgment is not set aside, community spread of all communicable diseases will no doubt skyrocket in this State ... while mechanisms for combating any such spread will have been dismantled.”

In discussing the ruling and the County's response, Dr. Page explained “It is unprecedented and it has created quite a problem for people in Missouri. ... We have a lot of legal experts looking at our strategies and we will deploy whatever we can to try and do everything we can to protect the health and welfare in St. Louis County because we know our public health orders have saved lives in St. Louis County and made a difference.”

However, and unfortunately, last Tuesday, the St. Louis County Council – which unquestionably has the authority to issue mask requirements – did not act on Dr. Page's request to do so as requested by the Department of Public Health. As Dr. Page explained in his correspondence to the Council, St. Louis County "is still experiencing widespread community transmission of COVID-19 ... among virtually all demographic groups. The Omicron variant has contributed to this increase in cases. COVlD—related hospital admissions are also increasing with 489 patients admitted to local hospitals, of whom 93 were in ICUs and 58 required mechanical ventilation. Public health experts have predicted that COVID-19 cases will continue to rise this winter, especially if we do not implement common-sense interventions such as a mask mandate."

As Dr. Page also said in his correspondence to the Council, an ordinance, which typically requires a three-week process (unless the councilmembers unanimously agree to suspend the rules to allow legislation to proceed quicker) is "legally unnecessary at this time because the Council can approve the Order pursuant to a long-standing ordinance, 602.020.3 SLCRO." However, Dr. Page also noted that "because passing an ordinance appears to be the legislative path [the Council] would prefer, I respectfully ask that the Council do so." (Read Dr. Page's letter to the Council in the Council Agenda, here: https://stlouisco.civicweb.net/document/48233/12.14.21~AddOn-CountyExec_Mask.pdf?handle=8C65835067C64E8DAF7B703E5DE5F8E8)

The Council did not introduce a mask ordinance at Tuesday's meeting.

Regardless of the legal wranglings: the advice being given by world, national, state, and local health experts is the same. Masks reduce the spread of this deadly and disabling airborne virus, and keep you and the rest of the community safer. You should wear them when you are in public, indoor spaces, especially when crowded.

COVID is a serious disease that needs to be taken seriously. Cases are rising dramatically at the local, state, and national levels, and across the globe. We believe focusing on the largest public health crisis our country, and this County, has seen in the last 100 years is good leadership; fighting public health efforts targeting data-proven methods to slow transmission within our community is not.

Dr. Page won't stop fighting for you, your family, and your health. Neither will we.

**This Week's Key County Council Votes: Each week the County Council votes on legislation that impacts all of our lives. We know it's often hard to attend or watch the Tuesday night meetings, and difficult to keep up with the votes that are being made. We hope highlighting a few key votes each week will be helpful! Note that you can see what's on the agenda at the Council's website here: https://stlouiscountymo.gov/st-louis-county-government/county-council/meeting-portal/ Here's what happened last Tuesday:

Council Again Declines to Vote on Mask Requirement in Public Spaces and Public Transit: Last week acting Public Health Director Khan again sent a public health order requiring masks in public places to the Council for approval. Councilwoman Clancy put the order on the agenda. Councilman Fitch (R-3) objected as a "point of order" that the Council needed to go through the three-weeklegislative process. The usual process for "orders" (as opposed to ordinances) is for them to be prepared and ruled upon by the Council in one meeting; this happens on a regular basis. Even so, Council Chair Rita Heard Days agreed with Councilman Fitch's point of order objection, and blocked a vote on the order.

Council Fails to Override Veto: Last week, the Council failed to override a veto of Bill Number 321, a bill that is identical to another bill that Dr. Page vetoed and that the council failed to override. For the same reasons as he vetoed the original bill, Dr. Page vetoed this one. (See his letter to the Council at the Council Agenda here: https://stlouisco.civicweb.net/document/48148/12.14.21~AddOn-CountyExec_VetoBill321.pdf?handle=0A3DA3B56B0548A38621D884C9F9E570)

To summarize, the bill originated as an idea to help members of the Ethical Society of Police who work in the St. Louis County Police Department and who want the same protections afforded to state employees under state law. Policies applicable to Police Department employees ordinarily are developed by the Board of Police Commissioners, but the St. Louis County Charter does allow the Council to take certain actions over the Police Department. Even so, because the Council generally defers to the Board of Police Commissioners, the ordinary practice within County government is for the Council to take these types of actions only with a clearly articulated intent to regulate the Police Department and involvement of the Board of Police Commissioners. Here, however, the Council’s intent to regulate the Police Department was not clear, and the Council did not consult the Board of Police Commissioners or the Human Relations Commission.

The bill also jeopardizes privacy. The way it is drafted, it would prohibit St. Louis County from disciplining a County employee who knowingly violated the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (“HIPAA”) by releasing the protected health information concerning patients of our health centers, jail residents, or other employees. Hamstringing the County from protecting this private information is simply not acceptable. Furthermore, when the Human Relations Commission met to consider the bill, most members expressed skepticism of the bill’s impact, whether it would accomplish legitimate objectives, and whether it was intended as a “private bill” meant to address one person’s unique situation.

Dr. Page reiterated his support for updating whistleblower protections responsibly and in line with other law and best practices.

Justice for Families Grant Secured by Page Administration: The Council gave approval to accept the $650,000 Justice for Families Program grant funds from the Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women. The funds are awarded for the grant term through September 30, 2024. There is a local match totaling $83,666 required over the term of the grant to be paid from the budget of the Family Court. These funds will provide for the retention and addition of key staff positions, enhanced training and professional development for program staff, additional victim advocacy services for victims of domestic violence, and improved effciency in case processing.

Annie E. Casey Foundation Grant Secured by Page Administration: The Council gave approval to accept an additional amount of up to $125,000 in grant funds from the Annie E. Casey Foundation. The additional funds bring the total amount of this grant to $335,000. This grant is provided to support the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative program implementation, related training, and for a researcher/analyst position.

Spring Schmidt Honored With Resolution: Deputy Director of Public Health Spring Schmidt, who served as the department's interim co-director, will leave the Department at the end of the month to become the executive director of the Missouri Center for Public Health Excellence, and St. Louis University's Office of Public Health Practice. She was honored by the Council with a resolution praising her excellent work at the County.

Metro Transit Operators Honored With Resolution: The Council adopted a resolution expressing its gratitude and appreciation for the County's Metro Transit Operators, who operate the 77 bus routes and 46 miles of light rail. The Metro Transit Operators have demanding schedules with late nights and early mornings, and are truly front-line workers, being the people who bring many others to and from work day after day. President and Chief Executive of Bi-State Development Taulby Roach, in introducing the transit workers accepting the Resolution, said: "Please remember in the darkest of days ... these folks showed up for those 4:30 am shifts. These folks showed up for the late night shifts. ... These folks are making a difference in St. Louis. Thank you for recognizing that."

Dr. Page Responds to Anti-Semitic Remarks Made During Public Comment: During the public comment portion of the meeting, a speaker made repeated and incredibly offensive anti-Semitic remarks. Councilwoman Clancy strongly objected to the remarks and said that she wanted the record to reflect she was disgusted by the anti-Semitic comments. Other Councilmembers echoed her reaction. After the meeting, Dr. Page stated: "Anti-Semitic remarks voiced tonight at the County Council meeting were abhorrent. I second Councilwoman Clancy’s strong objection."

**Council Passes Budget Bill That Cuts Public Health, Vows to Restore: Each year's budget must be passed by the end of the year. Last week, one of the budget bills passed by the Council stripped $20 million in funding from the $28.5 million requested by the Department of Public Health. Voting in favor of the bill were Council Chair Days (D-1st District), Councilman Fitch (R-3rd District), Councilwoman Webb (D-4th District), Councilman Harder (R-7th District). Councilman Trakas (R-6th District) objected that the Council had just received newly revised budget bills that afternoon and he had insufficient time to review. Councilwoman Clancy (D-5th District) echoed that objection, explaining that the various department staff also had insufficient time to review.

The cuts were apparently intended to strip any new DPH programs that sought federal funds. However, the cuts actually included ~$20 million from the public health fund, most of which was not new but for COVID-19 mitigation efforts, including PPE and additional staff for vaccine and testing clinics. Those expenses have been funded via 2020 federal emergency COVID-19 funds that are expected to run out in 2022; the Page administration proposed using ARPA money to continue them. On Wednesday, when the impact of the DPH cuts was made clear to the Council, they vowed to restore the funding. Per the Charter, the Council has until December 31 to finalize the budget.

**County DPH Issues Report Showing School Cases Rising; AG Threatens Schools With Mask Litigation; Schools Rescind Mask Requirements: This week the Department of Public Health issued a report showing that cases in St. Louis County students doubled over a month and a half, and nearly tripled for school staff. Key takeaways:

  • For the week ending 12/04/2021, staff cases were at their highest and student cases were at their second-highest for the current school year.
  • There were 551 pediatric COVID cases diagnosed in St. Louis County in the week ending 12/04/2021 – more than in any single week since November 2020.
  • COVID-19 is spreading unchecked in St. Louis County. Because of this, mitigation measures including vaccination, masking, keeping kids home when they are sick, and getting tested remain critical for keeping our school communities safe.

Read the report here: https://stlouiscountymo.gov/st-louis-county-departments/public-health/covid-19/covid-19-data-reports/brief-on-covid-19-in-schools/

Even in the face of rising cases, earlier this month, Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt sent letters to school districts claiming that enforcing school mask requirements and other safety protocols was illegal. Legal experts disagree, saying that school boards are elected positions; because the Cole County judge's order only invalidated public health mandates issued by public health officials without approval from locally elected officials, school boards still have authority to make decisions regarding school health. There is also broad authority given to school districts via legislation to address public health within schools.

The Missouri State Treasurer’s Office announced this week that it is requiring K-12 school districts that want to use a state-based low-interest bond program to abandon mask and quarantine requirements, even if those requirements were voted on by an elected school board.

School boards throughout the region have begun to rescind mask policies.

The Parkway School Board voted to remove the mask requirement in all Parkway school buildings starting Jan. 18. The Kirkwood board of education adopted a mask-recommended environment. Middle and high school students will no longer be required to wear masks starting Dec. 22; K-5 students will be mask-optional beginning Jan. 18. The Lindbergh school district will make masks optional for students and staff after they return from winter break on Jan. 5. The Mehlville school district will be making masks optional starting Dec. 23 for high school students and after January 17 for elementary and middle school students. The Rockwood School District will move to a mask optional policy starting Jan. 18.

**Nonstop Flights to Europe Beginning Summer 2022! It has been almost 20 years since Lambert Airport had a nonstop flight to Europe. But beginning June 2022, Lufthansa Airlines will fly nonstop flights from St. Louis to Frankfurt, Germany. Greater St. Louis, Inc., the St. Louis Economic Development Partnership, World Trade Center St. Louis, and St. Louis Lambert International Airport, regional businesses, civic and government leaders all worked together to make this possible. “Many of our St. Louis businesses have an international reach so a direct connection to Europe is a critical step to growing our region and making it easier to do business here,” County Executive Dr. Sam Page said. “This is a great moment for our region, and I look forward to building off this exciting announcement to attract new business and industry.”

**Port Authority Takes First Steps to Demolish Jamestown Mall: Last week, the Port Authority took the first steps to prepare the Jamestown Mall site for redevelopment. The authority approved executing contracts for asbestos abatement and waste removal, and for a market analysis and feasibility study for the site.

**300 New Jobs Coming to the County as 8th Avenue Relocates Manufacturing Plant to Hazelwood: 8th Avenue Food & Provisions Inc is relocating from Burnaby, Canada to Hazelwood, where it will open a new 250,000 square foot plant. The plant will prepare and package snack nuts, trail mix, and dried fruits and will bring 300 new jobs to the area. The Hazelwood building will open in January but hiring is occurring now. Jobs include supervisors and entry-level jobs in quality, operations, production, warehouse, forklift operations, sanitation and maintenance. As the plant manager stated, the company is putting "a $50 million-plus investment in the St. Louis economy."

**Council Considers Ending State-Supported PACE Program: This year an investigation found that some residential borrowers who used the PACE (Property Assessed Clean Energy) program were hit with large tax bills that they couldn't pay, which put some low-income residents at risk of losing their home. While the Council had been considering expanding the program, lastweek, Councilwoman Kelli Dunaway (D-2nd District) asked the Council to consider disbanding the program altogether.

“I do not believe there is a way to put in place the level of oversight into place that would be required to really protect consumers. ... And unless we’re willing to invest in some kind of oversight, I just don’t see how we could make it work.”

County Executive Sam Page supported reconsidering the PACE program and looks forward to the Council's recommendation. As he said in a statement: “Residential PACE programs were an ambitious idea, but experience has shown they don’t adequately protect consumers. ... Ending the County’s residential program now may make sense, but I look forward to hearing what the Council thinks is the right way forward.”

**Greensfelder Park Trail Dedicated for Abe Phillips: On Friday, the St. Louis County Parks dedicated and named a trail at Greensfelder Park for Abe Philips, who retired in 1992 after spending more than 20 years as the deputy director of the Parks Department. We're looking forward to heading out to Greensfelder to check out the Abe Phillips trail, and invite you to do the same!

**Heege Road Reopens: Heege Road, just west of Valcour in Affton, reopened this week. The road closed in early September as the County's Transportation crews replaced the bridge over Mackenzie Creek. The previous bridge was built before World War II and was deteriorating. The new bridge is a box culvert structure.

**County Partners with Truck Training Schools to Train More Drivers: A shortage of truck drivers and supply chain issues have made news recently, and St. Louis County has partnered with two truck training schools through the Workforce Development Division to help train more drivers. This program covers the cost of training and provides career services through grant funding. Those enrolled in this program qualify based on income status, employment status, and other potential barriers to employment. This week Dr. Page got a behind-the-scenes look at MTC Truck Driver Training in Hazelwood. He also met with three students in our Workforce Development program ready to get out on the road and help keep our community and country running. If you know someone who is looking for a career with great starting pay, contact the Jobs Center to see if they qualify for the program at 314-615-6010.

**Hon. Sandra Hemphill Retires: This week the County wished the Hon. Sandra Hemphill a happy retirement after 30 years with St. Louis County Circuit Court. Judge Hemphill became the first African American appointed to the bench in St. Louis County in March 1991. She is a true trailblazer and the very definition of service. Thank you, Judge Hemphill!

**Chief William Karabas Retires from Emergency Communications Commission: This week was Chief William Karabas' final meeting as Chairman of the Emergency Communications Commission. Chief Karabas has spent over 50 years in law enforcement and was instrumental in getting legislation passed at the state and local level allowing the creation of the ECC in St. Louis County. After an incredible career of service, Chief Karabas is embarking on a well-earned retirement from the ECC. Thank you, Chief.

**Adopt a Family Program Has Helped Over 4,000 Families Over Three Decades: The County's Adopt a Family program has helped over 4000 families over its 30-year history by providing food, clothing, toys, and other services during the holiday season. This week, Dr. Page joined Human Services Director Howard Hayes to hand out gifts. This year, 116 families were adopted by 74 adopters that include County employees, businesses, faith-based groups, and private citizens. “The pandemic has been hard on everyone especially for our families in need of support,” Hayes said. “The work we do remains important today, tomorrow and in the future. We were able to bring some joy and additional happiness to some families who are having an especially difficult year.” The Department of Human Services coordinates the Adopt a Family program and is the social services arm of St. Louis County government. The department oversees programs for the unhoused, veterans, older adults and youth. It also manages workforce development programs and the Weinman Shelter, a domestic violence program for women and their children.

Officers Lining Up to Work at Justice Center After Council Approves Hourly Raises: In July, Dr. Page asked the Council to prioritize raises for hourly Justice Services employees as part of its ARPA funding plans. (See https://www.ksdk.com/article/news/local/st-louis-county-american-rescue-plan-act-funds/63-10d259ce-bee2-4402-a862-e3be705020ff) After hearing passionate testimony from some corrections officers about the danger posed by staffing shortages, last month the St. Louis County Council unanimously voted to fast-track and approve $5.1 million in COVID-19 recovery funds to issue pay raises – immediately – for nearly 300 hourly frontline jail workers. The bill provides for a $3/hour pay raise through 2024. Dr. Page immediately signed it into law, and was grateful for the Council's action in fast-tracking this long-overdue legislation.

This week we saw the impact of the pay raises, when 40 people applied for positions at the Justice Center! You can also apply for an apprenticeship program that comes with a $500 bonus, and college credits! You can apply directly here: http://ow.ly/O9Tn50H6BVX

Department of Public Health's Health Centers Nationally Recognized for High-Quality Care: DPH’s three permanent health centers received national recertification from the Patient-Centered Medical Home recognition program of the National Committee for Quality Assurance.

The NCQA Patient-Centered Medical Home program's standards emphasize the use of systematic, patient-centered, coordinated care that supports access, communication and patient involvement. “NCQA Patient-Centered Medical Home Recognition raises the bar in defining high-quality care by emphasizing access, health information technology and coordinated care focused on patients,” said NCQA President Margaret E. O’Kane. “Recognition shows that the St. Louis County Department of Public Health has the tools, systems and resources to provide its patients with the right care, at the right time.”

Dr. Faisal Khan, acting director of DPH, welcomed the news, saying “This is well-earned and well-deserved recognition of the selfless and tireless efforts of our team in providing high quality primary care services to the people of St. Louis County.” Congratulations, DPH!

Accenture Holds Ribbon Cutting for New Advanced Technology Center, 1,400 Jobs Added: Accenture Federal Services held a ribbon cutting to celebrate the new St. Louis Advanced Technology Center (ATC) in St. Louis County, and announced an apprenticeship and apprenticeship-in-training (AIT) program to be headquartered at the ATC.

Through a partnership with St. Louis County and the Family and Workforce Centers of America, the 12-week AIT program offers a pathway into AFS's apprenticeship program, which is a one-year, salaried apprenticeship program that provides on-the-job training, professional learning and development, as well as the opportunity of a full-time career at AFS. Apprentices-in-training earn a wage while gaining hands-on learning and valuable on-the-job workforce experience.

“Promoting inclusive growth is the centerpiece of our efforts to grow the St. Louis region. Accenture Federal Services is taking a leadership role in that effort by bringing 1,400 new jobs and launching this apprenticeship program to skill and upskill talent and power our technology sector,” said Jason Hall, CEO of Greater St. Louis, Inc. “Our thanks to Accenture Federal Services for investing and growing in St. Louis, helping to advance the goals of the STL 2030 Jobs Plan.”

Department of Public Health Deputy Director Spring Schmidt to Become Executive Director for the Missouri Center for Public Health Excellence: Deputy Director Spring Schmidt, who served as the department's interim co-director, will leave the Department at the end of the month to become the executive director of the Missouri Center for Public Health Excellence, and St. Louis University's Office of Public Health Practice.

There, she will work with health departments and professionals throughout the state to improve health outcomes and ensure proper staff training.

“I am delighted for Spring,” said the health department's acting director, Dr. Faisal Khan. “She is a good friend and an exemplary public health professional and I wish her the very best. Missouri is fortunate to have her services in the new role and I look forward to working together to strengthen the public health system across the state.”

A new deputy director has not yet been named.

**St. Louis County Vaccination Rates Top In State Again!: St. Louis County is the highest vaccinated county in Missouri – 66.4% of St. Louis Countians have at least initiated vaccination, and 58.7% have completed vaccination.

Dispose of Household Hazardous Waste – First 50 Pounds FREE! Did you know county residents (as well as St. Louis City and Jefferson County residents) can make multiple appointments per year to drop off toxic or hazardous chemicals at an Household Hazardous Waste site? And your first 50 pounds is free with each visit. If you have old batteries, paints, herbicides, pesticides – or other household chemicals/poisons that you need to dispose of, you can do so at the Household Hazardous Waste site and help to keep our environment safe! Go here to see a full list of the chemicals and materials they accept: https://hhwstl.com/disposal Visit hhwstl.com to make an appointment.

Recycle Your Holiday Tree, Lights: Wondering what to do after the holiday with your natural tree – or those pesky strands of holiday lights that aren't working anymore? St. Louis County has resources for you! The Parks Department uses recycled fresh-cut natural trees as natural fish habitats and mulch; holiday light recycling is available at Winter Wonderland and some other locations. Check out the full holiday recycling guide here: http://ow.ly/gEcO50GYY1h

COVID Booster Eligibility Expanded; Vaccinations for Children 5-11 Begin: The eligibility for Pfizer and Moderna COVID boosters has been further expanded to include anyone age 18+ who completed their vaccination at least six months ago. Johnson & Johnson boosters are available for anyone 18+ who completed their vaccination at least two months ago. And earlier this month the CDC authorized a lower-dose formulation of the adult Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5 to 11, after it was found to be safe and 90.7% effective in preventing COVID-19.

You can now receive adult vaccines, second doses, and boosters – as well as vaccines for children 5+ at County Health Department locations and vaccine events. NOTE: More than one family member can get a vaccine at the same time, making DPH a convenient option for the entire family. The County is implementing expanded hours to help parents and families with scheduling. The Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines and booster doses will be available during the extended hours. Walk-ups are welcome. For more info visit: http://ow.ly/mjWm50GEwm2

Here are the DPH Clinic hours:

Monday-Friday, John C. Murphy Health Center, 8am-4:30pm
Monday-Friday, North Central Community Health Center, 8am-4:30pm
Monday-Friday, South County Health Center, 8am-4:30pm

And boosters are also available at Library Clinics (Pfizer and J&J)

Wednesdays, SLCL Lewis and Clark, 1-7pm
Thursdays, SLCL Natural Bridge, 1-7pm
Fridays, SLCL Florissant Valley, 9am-4pm
Saturdays, SLCL Rock Road, 9am-4pm

Winter Wonderland in Full Swing! Go to the Winter Wonderland website to see each day's schedule, and for the link to purchase tickets. https://www.winterwonderlandstl.com/shows

Property Tax Season Underway: Did you know that you can pay your personal and real estate taxes online? You can! Just go to https://revenue.stlouisco.com/Collection/PayTaxes/ to get started. Or, watch this very informative video that walks you though the simple process: https://fb.watch/9gQnc2gJoX/ You can also mail a check or money order (made payable to ‘COR’) to Collector of Revenue, 41 S. Central Ave, 2nd Floor, Clayton, MO 63105 or drop your payment off in the Collector’s drop box in the lobby of one of the offices Mon – Fri, 8am – 5pm. See the location and hours information at the DOR Frequently Asked Questions page here: https://stlouiscountymo.gov/services/services-links/revenue/collector-of-revenue-faqs/ Just click on "What offices are open and what can I do there?".

**Frequently Asked Question:

We've had plans to get together for Christmas/New Years and I really don't want to cancel. How can we have a safer holiday?

COVID is an airborne virus, and the Omicron variant is, by all accounts, incredibly contagious. Keep those two facts in mind as you are planning or modifying your holiday plans. If you are planning to get together with people who don't live in your household, know that there is no event that is risk-free, but there are some things you can do to make your gathering safer. Here are some ideas:

First, find out the vaccination status of those who are attending. We know that vaccines are really effective against the Delta variant. While it's still early days in the Omicron phase of the pandemic, early reports show fewer hospitalizations for people who have been vaccinated, and even greater immunity for people who have received a booster. If everyone in your gathering has received three doses of an mRNA vaccine, that's great because it decreases (but does not eliminate) your collective risk. If you've been putting off getting yourself or your eligible children vaccinated or boosted, this is the week to make it a priority.

Second, have everyone attending do a rapid test before coming over/getting together. Rapid tests are available over the counter at area pharmacies. Because people can go from non-infectious to infectious within hours, it's important for people to test around the time they'll be gathering – not hours (or days) before.

Third, increase ventilation. COVID is airborne. By simply opening windows, you circulate and clear any potentially virus-laden air quicker – decreasing your risk of inhaling those virus particles. As of right now, the weather this weekend looks to be particularly mild. (Yes, it's Missouri. We know that forecast will change five times before Christmas Eve!) Take advantage of that mild weather and open the windows/doors – or move your gathering outside and have a holiday picnic!

Fourth, increase filtration of the air indoors. COVID is airborne. If opening windows isn't an option, you can use an inexpensive and effective HEPA air filter. There are a number of options online and in stores. If you prefer a DIY project, you can create a "Corsi box" – an effective, homemade HEPA filter made from a box fan and HVAC filters you can find at any hardware store.

Fifth, increase the filtration of the air you personally breathe – i.e., use masks. COVID is airborne. Using a mask that filters out virus particles will decrease your risk of becoming infected. We've discussed masks and mask effectiveness at length in this newsletter, so you know by now that there is no debate among public health professionals that masks work. And while you may not wear a mask during your gift exchange or Christmas brunch, wearing a high-quality (double-cloth, cloth with filter, surgical, or N95), well-fitting mask when you are out in public this week will decrease your chances of contracting the virus ... and then bringing it to your family and loved ones on Christmas.

Sixth, decrease the size of your holiday gathering. After nearly two years of dealing with an ever-changing pandemic, nerves are frayed and everyone wants to get back to something that feels like "normal." That's especially true during the holidays. It's frustrating to hear and to have to consider, but decreasing the size of your holiday gathering does decrease your risk of contracting and spreading COVID – and we'd be remiss if we didn't say so. 

Seventh, as always, practice safe social distancing. COVID is airborne. The virus particles can travel far and hang suspended for quite some time if not ventilated properly (see #3 and #4 above). However, the virus particles are likely to be more dense around the person who is infected. This week as you are out making holiday preparations, be especially vigilant about social distancing – especially with anyone not wearing a mask. (We recognize that social distancing during a family celebration would probably be tough, but again – this is a menu of options that decrease your risk of contracting the virus, and social distancing is one of those options.)

Eighth, cut down on your in-person activities in the days leading up to the gathering and ask guests to do the same. Fewer in-person and public interactions means fewer opportunities to come into contact with the virus. 

Ninth, take your holiday gathering virtual – with some or all guests. These days there are plenty of ways to share your holiday with people who aren't physically present. Video conferencing apps like Zoom can make it pretty easy to "get together" with loved ones who are hundreds of miles away. 

Tenth, practice good hygeine. COVID is airborne, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't wash your hands. 

We hope this list is helpful for you to consider as you plan to gather with loved ones, and that you have a happy and safe holiday.

**Pet of the Week!:  We really love our Pet of the Week segment. Adopt a dog or cat from now until Dec. 23 for a chance to win the last git basket of the year that includes goodies for your new pet and you (including a ticket for Winter Wonderland in Tilles Park!) This week we're highlighting Ivy, an 8-year-old kitty who is affectionate as can be and just loves-loves-loves pets ... and purrs so loudly we could hear it in this adorable video: https://fb.watch/9_YQU4nf5u/.

The shelter is open on the weekends from 12-3pm, and during the week by appointment. Any questions regarding the adoption process can be directed to the adoption desk at 314-615-0650 (opt. 3). Learn more about the adoption process and find the adoption application online here: https://stlouiscountymo.gov/st-louis-county-departments/public-health/animal-care-control/pet-adoption

St. Louis County Library News:

St. Louis County Libraries are open for browsing without an appointment. Learn more at www.slcl.org/reopening. The Library has many events, classes and workshops each week. Check out the online calendar to see what’s happening this week. https://www.slcl.org/events

Grab-and-Go Meals: Operation Food Search provides free grab and go meals for kids, Monday-Friday at select SLCL locations. Learn more: www.slcl.org/after-school-meals

Join the Winter Reading Challenge! All ages can participate. Register online at www.slcl.org. Print one of the log sheets (there's one for each age category) to help track. Complete at least 5 activities to be entered in an electronic prize raffle. Mark activities complete by January 31.

St. Louis County Parks news: 

Bows for Birds Begins! The Audubon Center at Riverlands has begun its second annual Bows for Birds challenge – a scavenger hunt that takes you to 12 different area parks in search of wooden cutouts of native birds. And yes! There are prizes! It's a great family-friendly event. Learn more here: https://riverlands.audubon.org/programs/bows-birds

The Fall/Winter Activity Guide is available! Learn more about special events, day camps, swimming lessons, outdoor programs and more: http://ow.ly/my0Z50DQ9n5

Come celebrate the season by seeing Thornhill, the family home of Missouri Governor Frederick Bates, in all its Christmas splendor the weekend of Dec. 3 and 4. This self-guided stroll through the Victorian-adorned home is a wonderful opportunity to spend the holiday in the mid-1800s. Light refreshments will be served. Advance tickets are available by calling (314) 615-8328 or visiting http://ow.ly/N5rP50GGaZA, but they are not required.

 

To say this is a challenging, fast-paced time is an understatement, but we hope updates like this will help you keep track of what's going on week-to-week.

Please forward this email to a family member, friend, or co-worker you think might be interested. Or encourage them to subscribe for themselves at this link https://bit.ly/3nijXBs.

Let us know if you have questions, concerns, or something you'd like us to focus on!

Thanks,

Dr. Sam's Team

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

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