What Happened This Week
We've heard from a lot of people that it's hard to keep track of what's happening from week to week. We thought you might feel that way, too, and that a recap might help. Here are some highlights:
- Friendly reminder that Dr. Sam holds live briefings on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 8:30am; those briefings are broadcast live on his County Executive facebook page, which you can access from this link: https://www.facebook.com/CountyExecutiveSamPage/. See past briefings at the Youtube channel HERE. There will be no briefing tomorrow due to Memorial Day.
- Every Tuesday, the St. Louis County Council holds its meeting live by web/teleconference. During that meeting Dr. Sam gives his weekly County Executive Report. You can read last week's County Executive Report HERE. This week's meeting is at 6:30pm on May 26. To join, dial call +1-408-418-9388 and enter the Access code: 791 523 981. If you'd like to join by computer, go to www.stlouisco.com and scroll to the "events" links at the bottom of the page, where you will find a link to join.
- Every Tuesday, the County Council Special Committee for Oversight of COVID-19 Funding and Expenditures holds its meetings at 10:00am. To join by phone call +1-408-418-9388 and enter the Access code: 799 462 779. To join by computer, go to www.stlouisco.com and scroll to the "events" links at the bottom of the page, where you will find a link to join. The Committee provides special oversight over spending of the $173 million in federal CARES Act grant funding.
- St. Louis County’s slow, gradual reopening began Monday, May 18th. Specific guidance (available at www.STLCorona.com) has been provided for various industries, including hotels, business offices, restaurants, construction, transportation services, personal services, retail, daycare and summer camps. You can find all of those on www.STLCorona by clicking the green "reopening guidelines" button on the main page or by clicking HERE.
- Memorial Day marks the beginning of summer, and many families have asked questions about summer camps, pools, and other outdoor activities. This week all of the remaining parks that had been closed reopened; all St. Louis County parks are now open. Summer camps will be able to open with guidelines on June 1. You can find the guidance for summer camps HERE. As always, public health data and trends will be followed closely. The opening of pools, gyms, and youth adult athletics, without fans and with guidelines that are under development, is tentatively scheduled for June 15. Specific guidance for those activities will be provided in the coming weeks.
- On Wednesday, Sam and his team met with members of the fitness industry. Physical exercise is so important for physical and mental health, and our fitness industry employs thousands of people in the region. However, gyms remain a high risk environment because heavy breathing while working out creates a high risk for transmission of aerosolized droplets and spreading the virus. Fitness center owners are working hard to make sure that they can provide services in our community that protect the health and safety of their employees and their visitors. The County will continue working with them on guidelines that will help them reopen safely. Again, the target date for reopening gyms is June 15.
- On Friday, a federal judge ordered the closing of two fitness centersthat had remained open in violation of the County's order. Sam will continue to work with business owners to help them reopen safely.
- The County was recognized nationally by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services as leading the country in management of COVID-19 within our long-term care facilities. CMS issued recommendations for how to manage long-term care facilities, and St. Louis County programs were highlighted as examples for others to follow. In particular, the High-Risk Task Force is a group of volunteers (many retired) with healthcare backgrounds. Each volunteer is given a list of long-term care facilities to check in with on a regular basis. They check in on the welfare of residents and employees and see whatneeds they may have - including more PPE. St. Louis County has provided more than 20,000 masks to these facilities so far. The County is building on the success of that program with a newly-formed Quick Reaction Team that will respond when the Health Department identifies a hot spot in a communal living space. The team goes in with testing, training and PPE - and conducts a deep cleaning of the facility. They are in and out in a day and can be deployed 24-7. Read the CMS report for yourself here: https://www.cms.gov/files/document/covid-toolkit-states-mitigate-covid-19-nursing-homes.pdf
- On Friday the regional response team, led by Washington University professor Dr. Jason Purnell, worked with Prepare STL to pick up 138,000 masks purchased by the County CARES grant funding. Those masks will be distributed to high risk neighborhoods. The County also delivered 16,000 masks to North County Inc., which will distribute them to businesses in North County.
- Sam has been in regular contact with members of the faith community. As of now, worship services can be held so long as congregants are social distancing and the building services are held in is at 25% of the fire code capacity. Masks are highly encouraged. Many religious leaders have said they intend to continue virtual services until at least mid-June. This coming week, 100,000 N95 masks will be distributed to the Clergy Coalition to be used in places of worship throughout North County.
- Last week, 22,000 masks were distributed to school districts who are providing food services to students.
- Sam told KMOX that a great deal of the enforcement of coronavirus guidelines will come from public pressure, because people won't go where they don't feel safe. He also reiterated that the County will be watching closely to make sure the reopening doesn't lead to a new surge in cases, by reviewing hospital admissions, testing results, testing of asymptomatic patients and symptomatic patients and the ratio between positive and negative tests. "We'll look to our public health officials to guide us. We know that our hospitals have to have capacity to take care of our patients. Our ICU's have to have capacity. So, we'll be watching those trends," he said. Check it out HERE.
- The County has set aside $47 million in CARES Act funding, awaiting guidance from the federal government on how we can support our municipalities and unincorporated St. Louis County with those funds. The federal guidelines on CARES Act spending contain strict criteria. If those criteria are not followed, the municipalities would have to repay any funds not following the guidelines (and, if the December 31, 2020 deadline on spending has passed, those funds could be forfeited altogether). The Municipal League has identified $47 million in need. While we await federal guidance, the Municipal League has been asked to tabulate COVID-19 related expenses so that we can get funds into the community as soon as possible - while being in compliance with federal law.
- The Office of Diversity Equity and Inclusion issued its first Annual Report detailing the good work and progress they've made. You can find the report HERE.
- The application deadline for the Small Business Relief Program was extended to May 31. Grants awarded under the program will help pay for expenses small businesses have incurred while they have been closed, or during their reopening. Businesses (including non-profits and sole proprietorships) with 50 or fewer employees as of March 1, 2020 can qualify for a one-time grant of up to $15,000. Over $17 million of the CARES Act grant funding (10% of the funds received) has been dedicated to these small business grants, which will be awarded based upon need. Applications will be reviewed/recommended by municipal mayors and the County Council Member for that district before they are independently reviewed by an accounting firm. Please go to www.STLCorona.com to fill out an application.
- A reminder that you can see CARES Act expenses for yourself in the transparency portal on www.STLCorona.com. You can view a breakdown of actual or committed spending by department or by vendor, look at individual expenditures, and even download a spreadsheet of the spending data. Access it by going to www.STLCorona.com and clicking on the green "COVID-19 Spending" button, or by clicking HERE. If you have questions about what you see there or would like additional information, send your question by email to OpenData@stlouisco.com.
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.
Let us know if you have questions, concerns, or something you'd like us to focus on. We'll get through this together.
Dr. Sam's Team