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What Happened Last Week, December 6, 2021

What Happened Last Week, December 6, 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 Week!)

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.

This Week's Updates

**Mask requirement update: Last month, an elected state court judge in Cole County (Jefferson City) ruled that local health orders issued during a pandemic are not valid. The impact that order will have on the County is not clear. Unfortunately, there is confusion among local public health departments across the state as to whether it will impact their ability to respond generally to public health issues.

Last week it was reported that the Department of Health and Human Services, which was represented by the Attorney General 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/) The long-term impact of that refusal is not yet fully understood.

The Attorney General has pledged to enforce the Cole County judge's ruling.

This week, County lawyers and attorneys from the Attorney General's office appeared before the judge handling the AG's specific challenge to St. Louis County's mask requirement. According to a spokesperson for the Attorney General, the AG is seeking a preliminary injunction officially ending the second St. Louis County mask order.  (https://fox2now.com/news/coronavirus/st-louis-county-mask-mandate-in-court-today-as-covid-deaths-hit-double-digits/)

Last week it was also revealed that an internal state analysis concluded that jurisdictions with a masking requirement fared better than those that did not. In correspondence regarding those study results, the DHSS director stated: "I think we can say with great confidence reviewing the public health literature and then looking at the results in your study that communities where masks were required had a lower positivity rate per 100,000 and experienced lower death rates.” (See https://missouriindependent.com/2021/12/01/missouri-health-department-found-mask-mandates-work-but-didnt-make-findings-public/) That internal state analysis was never shared with St. Louis County, the public, or the courts involved in the current mask order litigation, and instead was revealed to reporters in response to a Sunshine records request.

Again, and 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.

But minimizing the death and disability caused by this virus – whether for political or personal benefit – needs to stop. COVID is a serious disease that must be taken seriously. Dr. Page does not take the deaths of over 2,600 St. Louis Countians lightly, and does not accept the long-term suffering of the 10-30% of people who acquire COVID that go on to develop Post Acute Covid Sequelae (PASC) as inevitable. We doubt you do, either. 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.

**Omicron Variant Preliminarily Identified in St. Louis City: Late last week St. Louis City announced that a resident who tested positive for COVID-19 has been preliminarily identified as having the variant that the World Health Organization (WHO) has named "Omicron." (The CDC has yet to confirm.) Worldwide, studies are being conducted now to learn more about whether Omicron spreads more quickly than other COVID variants, whether it evades natural or vaccine-based immunity, and whether it causes greater disease. We will know more in the coming days.

However, you already have the tools and the knowledge to combat Omicron. At this stage of the pandemic, we all know what we can do to slow and stop the spread of COVID: wear a tight-fitting mask when indoors, especially in crowded areas; increase ventilation by opening doors and windows or installing HEPA air purifiers; get vaccinated – or get a booster. (At least one vaccine manufacturer has announced that it is already working on a variant-specific booster, should one be needed.)

As more information about Omicron and its spread in the region becomes available, Dr. Page and the Public Health Department will share that information. In the meantime, let's all show that generosity of spirit that makes St. Louis County such a wonderful place to live, and do what we can to protect one another.

**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 Declines to Vote on Mask Requirement in Public Spaces and Public Transit: Last week acting Public Health Director Khan sent a new public health order requiring masks in public places to the Council for approval. Councilwoman Clancy asked the Council to consider it. Councilman Trakas (R-6) objected that the requested order was not included on the meeting agenda in sufficient time for consideration under Sunshine laws. Councilman Fitch (R-3) verbally agreed with that point of order objection. Councilwoman Clancy (D-5) noted that the agenda included her request to consider the question of adopting a new public health order in response to the Cole County judge's ruling, even if it did not include the language in the draft order. She noted that the County Counsellor had advised the request was properly on the agenda and did not violate Sunshine laws. Council Chair Days (D-1) sustained (agreed with) the point of order objection, and precluded a vote on the proposed order. She informed Clancy that she would schedule a special council meeting to consider the matter. A special meeting has not yet been scheduled.

Councilwoman Clancy added a vote on the proposed mask requirement to the Council's agenda for Tuesday, December 7. (See her letter and the proposed order at https://stlouisco.civicweb.net/document/47121/12.07.21~OC-5thClancy.pdf?handle=FE342E931AF4496782DC50122C34B1BB)

Council Advances Bill That Would Prohibit Disclosure of Partisan Affliation in St. Louis County Elections: Last week the Council advanced a bill introduced by Councilman Fitch (R-3), proposing non-partisan elections in the County. No discussion was had on the bill. Voting in favor: Chairwoman Rita Heard Days (D-1), Councilman Fitch (R-3), Councilwoman Webb (D-4), and Councilman Harder (R-7). Voting against: Councilwoman Dunaway (D-2), Councilwoman Clancy (D-5) and Councilman Trakas (R-6). After the bill was advanced, County Prosecutor Wesley Bell called the bill a "solution in search of a problem." In a statement to the Post-Dispatch, he stated that “[o]ne’s party is indicative of what one believes, and the voters should know where we stand... In this matter, the reality is the suggestion to change countywide elections to non-partisan elections is, in itself, partisan. This is an attempt to minimize Democratic control in a Democratic-majority county.” See https://www.stltoday.com/news/local/govt-and-politics/bell-opposes-fitch-s-plan-for-nonpartisan-elections-in-st-louis-county/article_0e518c24-aab9-559f-b652-fe03721d20b9.html

The bill is up for final passage this week. If passed, it would put the question of whether St. Louis County elections would omit the party of each candidate to the voters in the April 5, 2022 municipal election.

Dr. Faisal Khan Must Continue to Serve as Acting Director of Public Health: The Council took up the appointment of Dr. Khan lastweek, and declined to approve. (Voting against: Council Chair Days (D-1), Councilman Fitch (R-3), Councilwoman Webb (D-4), Councilman Trakas (R-6) and Councilman Harder (R-7); Voting to approve: Councilwoman Dunaway (D-2), Councilwoman Clancy (D-5).) Dr. Page reiterated the fractured environment and the difficult job of public health directors nationally.

Council Recognizes Crisis Intervention Team: At this week's meeting, the Council recognized the work of the Crisis Intervention Team (CIT), an innovative law enforcement program that diverts people experiencing mental health crises and homelessness toward resources and services they most need. CIT officers also keep individuals out of jail by recognizing when behavior is the result of illness and helping these individuals gain access to emergency, inpatient, and community-based mental health treatment services. The St. Louis region has more than 2,000 CIT-trained officers. In 2020, those officers handled 7,898 mental health crisis calls. We join the Council in thanking them for their work serving our community.

**St. Louis County Detective Antonio Valentine Mourned, Honored: St. Louis County Detective Antonio Valentine, 42, was killed in the line of duty last week, when his unmarked car was struck head-on by a fleeing suspect. Bunting was placed on St. Louis County Police Department entrances to honor and mourn him, and Dr. Page ordered flags be flown at half staff at all St. Louis County government buildings.

Detective Valentine is survived by four children. A graduate of Beaumont High School and a member of St. Louis County Police since 2007, he was a serious professional, a kind-hearted man, and a hero. We offer our most sincere condolences to Detective Valentine's family, colleagues, and friends. His death is a tragedy, and his contribution to our community will not be forgotten.

His visitation is scheduled for 5-8 p.m. on Thursday at Layne Renaissance Chapel, 7302 West Florissant Avenue, followed by a funeral mass at 9 a.m. on Friday at Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis, 4431 Lindell Boulevard.

Military honors and burial will follow at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery.

Backstoppers, an organization that assists families of fallen officers, has pledged their support. See more: https://backstoppers.org/we-are-now-assisting-the-family-of-officer-antonio-valentine/?fbclid=IwAR3S7EWPsvAsEZjgGXJ6Qhdem_idQbJ-3Dfh_UDiA5r77qHLT9WJZbVC5r8

**St. Louis County Marks World AIDS Day: Two years ago, Dr. Page joined the mayor of the city of St. Louis in signing the Paris Declaration, which committed governments and other key stakeholders to strengthen our efforts to reduce HIV infections and end AIDS-related deaths. Last week, to mark World AIDS Day, Dr. Page highlighted the work that St. Louis County is doing to further the goals of the Paris Declaration through the Sexual Health Clinic at the Department of Public Health. This clinic provides HIV testing and care at no cost to residents of both the city and the county. In addition, it is working with the state of Missouri on implementing a Rapid Start program at the clinic which will allow it to quickly connect patients to HIV treatment. For more information please call (314) 615-9736 or visit: http://ow.ly/BWxl50GZSB1. St. Louis County is honored to work with the City and other local leaders on this project and will continue to honor our commitment to work toward ending the AIDS epidemic.

**Dr. Page Appoints Scott Anders as Director of Justice Services: Dr. Page has appointed Scott Anders as the county’s permanent director of Justice Services. The Department of Justice Services is responsible for the overall management, operation, and security of the St. Louis County Justice Center. The department provides direct supervision and guidance for inmate residents to improve their lives before re-entering the community.

“As the Chief Probation Officer for the Eastern District of Missouri, Scott developed national
partnerships to create re-entry programs for inmate residents that he has replicated in his time at the St. Louis County Justice Center,” Dr. Page said. “I’m grateful for Scott’s leadership in successfully advocating for pay raises for corrections officers and am thrilled he’s joining us as permanent director.”

Anders has more than 30 years of experience working in corrections. He joined St. Louis County as deputy director of Justice Services in June 2021. Prior to that, Anders worked for the Eastern District of Missouri as deputy chief in 2009 and then chief in 2018. He also worked for the Missouri Department of Corrections.

**Spire’s FERC request granted: A few weeks ago, Spire sent its customers an email warning of potential gas shortages this winter due to a dispute about the St. Louis pipeline. As we noted at the time, all parties involved – including Spire – believed that a pipeline permit extension would be granted soon. We are glad to report that the requested extension was indeed granted and is set to go on for as long as it takes the agency to reach its conclusion on the project.

**Dr. Page Joins the Jewish Federation of St. Louis in their Shine a Light on Anti-Semitism Campaign: Last spring, St. Louis County set an example for the region and the country by adopting the IRA definition of anti-semitism, becoming the fourth municipality in the nation to do so. Adopting IRA’s working definition of antisemitism helps law enforcement better identify and fight resurgent hate against jews. As Dr. Page said, “There is no place for intolerance, violence, and discrmination in our society for any group, no matter who they are, how they look, or where they came from.” St. Louis County is proud of its partnership with the AJC, which Dr. Page joined last week to highlight their Shine a Light on Anti-Semitism campaign. Watch more here: https://fb.watch/9Hg9ak1HEh/

**Dr. Page Encourages All County Employees to Show Respect: Last week, Dr. Page sent an email to St. Louis County employees, encouraging all to be respectful to one another and to the community. While nerves are frayed and tensions are high, it's critical that those in public service remain committed to – and respectful of – the community. As he said in that correspondence:

“[I]t seems the public discourse throughout our nation is growing even more hostile, personal and destructive. It can be easy to get caught up in emotions about these issues, particularly on issues we are passionate about. All of this weighs heavily on each of us in public service. We have serious jobs to do. And we must perform our duties equally for all of our constituents – whether we agree with them or not.

“In this time of rancor, we must commit ourselves to rising above it. St. Louis County simply can’t afford for any county employee at any level to be distracted from the serious duties they are needed to perform for our constituents. I want to remind each of you, at all levels of county government, to treat and to talk about our constituents respectfully.

“People enter public service because they are called by a sense of duty to our community. Please keep that motivation in mind as you continue your work for the people of St. Louis County.”

**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

**St. Louis County Vaccination Rates Top In State Again!: St. Louis County is the highest vaccinated county in Missouri – 64.8% of St. Louis Countians have at least initiated vaccination, and 56.7% have completed vaccination.

Council Fast-Tracks Justice Services Hourly Raises: 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. Although the bill was not scheduled to be finally approved for at least another week, after hearing dramatic and emotional testimony from corrections officers, Councilwoman Clancy asked to fasttrack the bill and asked if anything prevented expediting it. A number of questions from fellow councilmembers arose, leading the Council to call back Acting Jail Director Scott Anders to answer a few final questions. With their questions having been answered, the Council unanimously voted for the bill’s final passage.

Dr. Page immediately signed it into law. Dr. Page was grateful for the Council's action in fast-tracking this long-overdue legislation. Dr. Page had requested raises for hourly Justice Services employees to be part of the ARPA funding priorities of the Council back in July. (See https://www.ksdk.com/article/news/local/st-louis-county-american-rescue-plan-act-funds/63-10d259ce-bee2-4402-a862-e3be705020ff)

County, City Sign $790 Million Rams Settlement Agreement: On November 24, St. Louis County, St. Louis City, and the Regional Convention and Sports Complex Authority signed a $790 million agreement with Rams owner Stan Kroenke and the National Football League to settle a lawsuit over the Ram's 2016 relocation to Los Angeles.

In a joint statement, Dr. Page and St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones stated: “This historic agreement closes a long chapter for our region, securing hundreds of millions of dollars for our communities while avoiding the uncertainty of the trial and appellate process. The City, County, and STLRSA are still determining how settlement funds will be allocated. We will provide more updates as they become available.”

Dr. Page’s Funding Request for Job Training Center a “Great Idea”: The Metropolitan Employment and Training (MET) Center provides job training and placement, career development services, and transportation services to underemployed, unemployed, and displaced individuals. In July, Dr. Page recommended using ARPA funds to support the MET Center to increase the job training and opportunities in the region. While the St. Louis County Council still has not decided on a plan to spend the money, Chair Rita Days said appropriating some of the ARPA money to the MET center is a “great idea.” Read more here: https://www.stltoday.com/news/local/govt-and-politics/county-administration-seeks-big-funding-boost-for-wellston-job-training-center/article_eb4bbcdc-0397-5d40-b058-774c6e58892e.html

Bi-State Votes to Authorize $52 Million Security Funding: The board of the Bi-State Development Agency — Metro Transit's parent agency — voted to authorize president and CEO Taulby Roach to seek $52 million in funding for security upgrades that would include turnstiles at all 38 stations, gates and improved camera monitoring. The $52 million plan would be paid for with $10 million from bond refinancing, a mix of local funding and federal aid and $13 million in private donations ($5.25 million in private sector funding has already been committed). Dr. Page, St. Louis Mayor Tishaura O. Jones, and St. Clair County Board Chairman Mark Kern signed a joint letter in support of the plan stating that the new security systems "will signal to the public that Metro is committed to taking proactive steps in response to safety needs and resident concerns." St. Louis Police Chief John Hayden and Acting St. Louis County Chief Kenneth Gregory also signed letters of support, with Gregory noting that “this is just what our citizens have been asking for.” (See more: https://www.securityinfowatch.com/critical-infrastructure/news/21247601/turnstiles-are-part-of-52-million-in-security-upgrades-envisioned-for-metrolink)

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

Welcome Winter Wonderland! The first Winter Wonderland Walk started last week. 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?".

 

**Pet of the Week!:  We really love our Pet of the Week segment. This week we're highlighting Oliver, a domestic short hair cat who loves to play and has the softest, thickest fur. What better companion could you have for cold December days? Watch this adorable video of him here: https://fb.watch/9Hht6Dm43P/


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

St. Louis County Parks news: 

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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