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St. Louis, St. Louis County Could Lift Some Coronavirus Restrictions Next Week

St. Lous County Executive Sam Page spoke about the coronavirus outbreak on the Politically Speaking podcast on Wednesday, March 25, 2020
File photo / Bill Greenblatt
St. Louis County Executive Sam Page said Wednesday that county and St. Louis officials hope to lift some coronavirus-related restrictions next week.

St. Louis and St. Louis County officials plan to lift some coronavirus restrictions as early as next week.

The changes will be based on updated guidelines from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, St. Louis County Executive Sam Page said.

“The easing of restrictions is made possible as more people get vaccinated, and I urge everyone to get vaccinated as early as possible,” Page said Wednesday. “St. Louis County certainly plans to adopt CDC recommendations into our public health protocols, and we’ll have an announcement soon."

Page did not detail the changes during a press briefing. But in new guidance released this week, CDC officials said fully vaccinated people could safely gather in small groups outdoors without masks, unless they are in a large crowd.

In other guidelines, CDC officials saidsummer camps could safely openthis year, but recommended campers and workers take safety precautions.

Government officials are considering what Kansas City and other cities are doing to shape their own new rules, county spokesman Doug Moore said.

Kansas City officials this week dropped most coronavirus-related restrictions, including gathering and capacity limits for businesses. A mask mandate for indoor gatherings remains in effect.

In the St. Louis region, doctors and hospital leaders warn against lifting such limits too quickly.

“There’s an understandable temptation to let up on prevention measures, especially because we’ve seen that considerable drop in cases and hospitalizations,“ said Dr. Alex Garza, head of the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force. “It’s too soon to abandon those proven steps that have helped prevent the spread of the virus.”

Officials will have to weigh the risk of exposing people to new variants of the coronavirus, how many people have received the COVID-19 vaccine and the rates of positive coronavirus tests, hospitalizations and deaths, Garza said.

Vaccination rates are not high enough yet to merit changes in public health measures, he said. Just over 37% of Missourians have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, and about 25% are fully vaccinated.

St. Louis is nearing 500 coronavirus deaths. In St. Louis County, more than 1,800 people have died of COVID-19.

St. Louis County officials will discuss potential changes to coronavirus restrictions with the task force, Moore said.

The number of people being tested for COVID-19 in St. Louis County is continuing to decline. Last week, the county’s health department conducted an average of 25 coronavirus tests each day, compared with 275 people per day last year.

“Unfortunately, this indicates that many of us may be experiencing a false sense of security,” Page said. “The truth is more than 130 people contract COVID-19 every day in St. Louis County.”

People should still seek a test if they have any symptoms of COVID-19, especially if they are elderly or have chronic health problems, he said.

Follow Sarah on Twitter: @petit_smudge

Sarah Fentem is the health reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.