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Coronavirus In The St. Louis Region: April 27-May 3, 2020

CareSTL Health's COVID-19 testing site in north St. Louis will reopen on April 27.
Nat Thomas | St. Louis Public Radio
Retail businesses have had to change how they operate because of restrictions from the coronavirus pandemic. The longer it lasts, the more likely these changes will be permanent.

This is archived content from our live blog following the coronavirus in the St. Louis region. View current updates here.

4 p.m. Sunday, May 3

Illinoisans who don't have accounts with a bank can still cash their federal stimulus checks for free at some banking institutions in the state. Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Chase, U.S. Bank, Fifth Third and First Midwest will not charge check cashing fees to non-customers, the Illinois Department of Professional and Financial Regulation announced Friday.

“I want everyone who’s receiving a check to get its full value,” Gov. J.B. Prtizker said during his briefing Sunday. “Seek out these partner institutions to cash your check, because they won’t charge you fees.”

About 22% of Illinois households are under- or unbanked, and those households are more likely to receive paper stimulus checks, department officials said.

City workers in St. Louis cleared trash and abandoned items from the homeless encampment off Market Street this morning. A spokesperson for Mayor Lyda Krewson said the city moved about 40 people from the site to emergency shelters in St. Louis on Saturday night. The spokesman added that no individuals were removed from the park by force and that those who left last night did so voluntarily. 

The city prioritized disbanding people who gathered at the encampment because they presented more immediate threats to public health and safety during the pandemic, the spokesman said. Other encampments, like the ones north of the Dome at America’s Center and on the south riverfront, won't be targeted because they are smaller and more controlled, he said.

Eric Schmid

9 a.m. Sunday, May 3

Good Sunday morning to you. It’s been eight weeks since the first case of the coronavirus was reported in Missouri.

The St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force assures us that the stay-at-home orders are helping slow the pace of new cases. But there’s no denying that the region has taken an economic blow. There have been widespread job losses, and, as a result, more people need help paying for basics such as groceries.

On Saturday, the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis held a food giveaway at the former Jamestown Mall in Florissant. More than 2,700 cars lined up for packages, one of the largest such efforts in the region. 

A volunteer holds a box of food for a waiting car at the former Jamestown Mall in Florissant on Saturday, May 2, 2020. Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis says the giveaway, to 2700 vehicles, is the largest food giveaway to date in the St. Louis area.
Credit Bill Greenblatt | UPI
A volunteer holds a box of food for a waiting car at the former Jamestown Mall in Florissant on Saturday. The Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis says the giveaway, to 2700 vehicles, is the largest food giveaway to date in the St. Louis area.

More layoffs are afoot in the Metro East. About 700 U.S. Steel plant workers in Granite City have received possible layoff notices, though a company spokeswoman said the actual number of people out of work may be lower.

Meanwhile, the City of St. Louis began following through on its effort to dismantle the homeless encampment along Market Street downtown. A spokesperson for Mayor Lyda Krewson said caseworkers from the Department of Health and Senior Services placed around 20 people from the encampment in housing Saturday. There are about a dozen people left at the camp, but the spokesperson said they would not be forcibly removed.

Here are the latest coronavirus counts: 

  • St. Louis metro: 6,676 positive cases; 377 people have died. 
  • Missouri: 8,154 cases; 378 deaths.
  • Illinois: 58,505 cases; 2,559 deaths

— Shula Neuman and Kayla Drake

4 p.m. Saturday, May 2

The St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force said Saturday that the numbers of patients in the ICUs and those on ventilators have increased slightly, as have the number of hospitalizations. There are now 178 patients in intensive care, up from 164 on Friday. And there are 118 people on ventilators, up from 112 Friday.

A federal judge denied a request Saturday to block the City of St. Louis from clearing a downtown camp of homeless people. 

The fate of the encampment off Market Street is now uncertain, because it is not clear when the city will take action. A spokesman for Mayor Lyda Krewson said her office is reviewing the decision.

The Arch City Defenders filed the request for an injunction Friday. In a statement, the nonprofit law firm said that the city’s attorneys have made several promises in light of the decision. They said that hotel rooms will be made available for each displaced person who wants one and that the city has no intention to issue citations or make any arrests. COVID-19 tests will also be provided to those in the encampments. 

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker reiterated his decision to require people to wear masks in public beginning May 1. 

“Face coverings are vital for people to wear,” Pritzker said at his daily press briefing on Saturday. “In fact, it may be the most important thing that you can do to save other people's lives.” 

Pritzker said he’s noticed several people walking along the sidewalks not wearing masks. He said it is important to use face coverings even when outside because people will come into contact with other people for at least a short amount of time. 

— Jaclyn Driscoll

8:30 a.m. Saturday, May 2

Hello and happy Saturday to you. We have a gorgeous day on tap today. Get outside and enjoy the weather, but be sure to keep your distance from other people.

It’s not just small businesses and restaurants that are suffering during this time, it’s also some of the region’s large corporations. Both Boeing and Enterprise Holdings announced major layoffs this week; as many as 2,000 people are losing jobs at Enterprise alone.

Outside St. Louis and St. Louis County, Missouri businesses will start a gradual reopening of the economy on Monday. We’ll be keeping our eye on what happens to the number of new cases after that. 

In Illinois, Gov. J.B. Pritzker is taking a different tack. Illinois is implementing a new, aggressive contact tracing system. The $80 million program will train thousands of public health workers to identify the virus and track how it has spread from person to person. The program should be fully operational by the end of the month.

Here are the latest coronavirus counts: 

  • St. Louis metro: 6,375 positive cases; 359 people have died. 
  • Missouri: 7,835 cases; 362 deaths.
  • Illinois: 56,055 cases; 2,457 deaths.

— Shula Neuman

9:35 p.m. Friday, May 1

The fate of a downtown St. Louis camp of homeless people is uncertain as a federal court judge considers whether city officials have the power to clear it.

ArchCity Defenders on Friday asked U.S. District Judge Sarah E. Pitlyk to bar the city from closing the encampment along Market Street.

The nonprofit civil rights law firm filed suit against the city after officials pinned to tents notices that told people to vacate the camp within 48 hours. Read the full story: Downtown St. Louis Homeless Camp On Uncertain Ground As City Tries To Close It

Missourians who were furloughed because of COVID-19 may lose their unemployment benefits if they don't return to work as the state begins to reopen its economy starting Monday, Missouri Department of Labor officials said Friday. People who have tested positive for COVID-19 or live with someone who has and people who don’t have childcare or transportation to work because of the pandemic will still receive unemployment benefits, officials said.

If a recalled employee refuses to work, that will be considered a “voluntary quit” and disqualify the person from benefits, department officials said, adding that a general fear of the coronavirus is not a valid reason to not return to work.

Missouri hospitals will receive an additional $412.5 million in federal coronavirus relief, Republican U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt announced Friday. Nearly $300 million will go to rural hospitals and health care providers in the state; the rest is split between hospitals with many COVID-19 patients and those with a large number of low-income or uninsured patients.

Blunt said the aid is intended to help hospitals that have lost much of their revenue during the pandemic stay open and continue to serve patients. This is the third round of funding Missouri hospitals have received from the federal government during the coronavirus crisis.

Three organizations will hold a May 5 protest in St. Louis to call for the release of children and adults in the state detention centers and prisons. The 5 p.m. protest is organized by the Metropolitan Congregations United, EX-incarcerated People Organizing-MO and Campaign for Youth Justice. The groups aim to protect incarcerated people from catching COVID-19.

Eric Schmid

6:15 p.m. Friday, May 1

Missouri health officials today began disclosing the number of nursing homes, assisted living facilities and prisons in each county where people have been infected by the coronavirus.

On Tuesday, Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services director Dr. Randall Williams had said the state would identify which nursing homes have infected residents and workers. But instead, he said this afternoon that state law does not allow the department to identify the names of such facilities. Illinois health officials began identifying nursing homes with coronavirus cases on April 21. 

Illinois will begin building a “massive” statewide contact tracing operation in the coming weeks, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said today during his daily press conference.

Pritzker said the state would need thousands of workers to track down and notify anyone who comes into contact with people infected with the virus. Pritzker said the identities of coronavirus patients would remain anonymous. Illinois also will offer resources on how to access food delivery, medications and alternative housing for people who are infected and self-quarantining, Pritzker said.

The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 in the St. Louis region has dropped since yesterday by about 30, to 654 patients, according to Dr. Alex Garza, the head of the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force. The number of people in intensive care during that time remained steady at 164 and those on ventilators dropped from 117 to 112. 

Though the number of people needing hospital care is falling, Garza warns the region isn’t ready to fully reopen, even though some parts of Missouri will begin loosening restrictions Monday. “I believe we’re getting closer every day to that reopening,” he said. “If we move too fast with too much, we can cause that rebound [in cases].”

Schnucks employees will receive a cash bonus this month in addition to bonuses they received last month, the grocery store chain announced. A press release said the company would continue to pay employees who contract the virus and are required to quarantine.

The St. Louis-based chain will also start to sell prepared meals from local restaurants, such as Revel Kitchen, Crispy Edge, Seoul Taco, Nudo House STL, Crushed Red and Hot Box Cookies, at some of its St. Louis locations. It also announced a donation of $250,000 to the United Way for COVID-19 relief. Nearly $225,000 of that came from customers donating at checkout, according to the release.

Eric Schmid and Eli Chen

11:30 a.m. Friday, May 1

St. Louis Board of Aldermen President Lewis Reed said Friday that the city should be receiving direct federal help in the next coronavirus relief bill.

States had to provide grants to cities under 500,000 people in the first round of funding. Reed says U.S. Rep. Lacy Clay, D-University City, has been working with colleagues to eliminate the middleman in the next round. The dollars would likely come in the form of community development block grants.

Alderman Bret Narayan, D-24th Ward, wants to punish people who deliberately spit, cough or sneeze on essential workers during the pandemic with fines and possible jail time.

The measure, introduced Friday, still has to go through the legislative process. If it’s eventually approved by the Board of Aldermen and signed by the mayor, offenders would face fines of up to $500 or 90 days in jail. It would only be in effect until July 1, 2021.

St. Louis County Executive Sam Page is rolling out a federally funded program aimed at helping small businesses during the COVID-19 economic crisis.

At a press conference on Friday, Page said that he’s establishing a $17.5 million fund from federal legislation responding to the coronavirus pandemic. He said that each member of the St. Louis County Council would help direct where the money goes.

Page told reporters that businesses of 50 employees or fewer could receive up to $15,000 worth of grants. The seven county council districts would get $2.5 million worth of grants each.

The move comes during a contentious split on the county council about oversight of $173.5 million of federal coronavirus money. Members of the council voted 4 to 3 on Tuesday to give Page the power over how to spend the money.

ArchCity Defenders has filed a lawsuit to try to stop St. Louis officials from dispersing tent encampment.

Mayor Lyda Krewson’s administration ordered individuals in the encampment at Market and Chestnut streets to pack their belongings and move into emergency shelters. Attorneys with ArchCity Defenders filed a lawsuit with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri seeking to stop that move.

“As unhoused individuals, outreach workers, and service providers know firsthand, there is a severe shortage of adequate shelter space for our local unhoused community, which means that there are hundreds of people who are forced to risk punishment and sleep outside,” said John Bonacorsi, a staff attorney and Skadden Fellow at ArchCity Defenders.

Krewson had said that the fact that people at the encampment can’t shower or wash their clothing could increase the chances of spreading the coronavirus.

— Rachel Lippmann and Jason Rosenbaum

9 a.m. Friday, May 1

Good morning. 

The state of Illinois will remain under a stay-at-home order through the end of May. Our colleagues at NPR Illinois have a great breakdown of the new rules that take effect today: Illinois Has A New Stay-At-Home Order. Here’s What You Need To Know.

St. Louis has avoided an unmanageable surge of COVID-19 patients in hospitals so far. But doctors say patients are dying of preventable causes, such as a stroke or heart attack, because they wait too long to go to the emergency room out of fear of contracting the coronavirus at the hospital. 

“They’re watching what’s going on in New York, and the chaos and the craziness and all these COVID patients around, and they think it’s the same in St. Louis, when it actually is not,” said Dr. Robert Poirier, clinical chief at the Barnes-Jewish Hospital emergency department. Read the full story: Fear Of COVID-19 Is Keeping Patients From Seeking Lifesaving Emergency Treatment.

Here are the latest coronavirus counts: 

  • St. Louis metro: 6,324 positive cases; 350 people have died. 
  • Missouri: 7,562 cases; 353 deaths.
  • Illinois: 52,918 cases; 2,355 deaths.

— Lindsay Toler

9 p.m. Thursday, April 30

The Missouri GOP has canceled its in-person congressional district conventions and will instead hold them by mail. Kay Hoflander, chair of the Missouri Republican Party, said in a statement that having gatherings of hundreds of people in May would not be “in the interest of the health and safety of our delegates and their families.”

The conventions are held to elect three Republican National Convention delegates and one presidential elector. Those will now happen by mail.

Missouri Republicans so far have opposed efforts to extend mail ballots to all voters in general elections.

Illinois residents must wear masks or face coverings in public starting tomorrow. The state’s modified stay-at-home order that goes into effect May 1 requires masks or face coverings for anyone over the age of 2 when they are in public places and cannot maintain social distance of six feet.

Washington University is furloughing an additional 500 employees. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports the positions at the Danforth Campus are in addition to the 1,300 employees that were furloughed earlier this month from the medical campus.

The university has reported that the coronavirus pandemic has cut off sources of revenue. All in-person classes and activities at Wash U have been suspended through at least Aug. 1. Officials say that normal operations could resume again during the fall semester.

— Jonathan Ahl

5:45 p.m. Thursday, April 30

The number of COVID-19 patients at hospitals in the St. Louis region is starting to decline to the point that officials could soon modify stay-at home-orders, the head of the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task force said Thursday.

“We are cautiously optimistic that we will continue down this curve and start seeing increased improvements,” Dr. Alex Garza said in the daily task force briefing. “This gives us confidence that we can start planning for reopening the economy and loosening some of the social restrictions.”

Garza reported 685 people were hospitalized, down from a high of 757 on April 20. 

Still, he urged caution and said that while it appears the peak coronavirus cases may have passed and the curve is flattening, social distancing, hygiene and other precautions are necessary to keep the numbers moving in the right direction.

Restaurants and retail businesses in Eureka will not be allowed to open to the public until May 15, Mayor Sean Flower said Thursday.

That represents a step back from Flower’s earlier announcement that he would allow businesses to reopen Monday.

In a statement, Flower said he received “an enormous amount” of calls from residents and businesses with questions about the plan and concerns on its impact on health and safety.

“Businesses and residents are rightly concerned about the health issue, and it would benefit both to see the efforts that are being put in place to [make] these businesses safe,” Flower said in the statement posted to Facebook.

Flower also said he hopes the extra time will give businesses an opportunity to recall workers, clean their businesses and set up procedures to operate using social distancing recommendations.

— Jonathan Ahl

1:25 p.m. Thursday, April 30

Missouri is extending federal unemployment benefits. The move means unemployed Missourians who have exhausted their regular benefits could qualify for 13 more weeks of benefits from the federal CARES Act.

The Missouri Division of Employment Security encourages people who have exhausted their state unemployment insurance to check the Department of Labor’s online system. Some could qualify for continuing benefits. Those eligible can also receive an extra $600 weekly through an existing federal program. 

St. Louis’ stay-at-home order will remain in effect, even as much of the state prepares to follow Gov. Mike Parson’s plan to begin reopening the state economy on Monday.

“It’s just not safe right now to begin to reopen the city of St. Louis,” said Mayor Lyda Krewson in a press release. “We need to see at least 14 days of sustained decrease in the number of new COVID-19 cases before we can consider reopening.”

The city’s decision stands in contrast to that of St. Charles County, which is following the governor’s lead for reopening. Franklin County is allowing some businesses to reopen this weekend.

The city’s health department plans to continue opening new testing sites. For more information about testing locations, read: Here’s Where You Can Get Tested For Coronavirus In The St. Louis Area.

Three St. Louis County Council members have a plan to reopen the county, aligning it with Gov. Mike Parson’s efforts to restart the state economy. Republican Councilmen Tim Fitch, Mark Harder and Ernie Trakas on Thursday met with County Executive Sam Page, a Democrat, to talk about their proposal to ease the county’s stay-at-home order.

The first phase of their plan would allow retail stores, bars and restaurants to open by Monday, with some restrictions. Those restrictions would be lifted over a two-month period. Gyms could also open if patrons follow social distancing guidelines.

Fitch and Harder told reporters that businesses in St. Louis County need more certainty from Page about the timeline of the stay-at-home order. The councilmen said they had a productive discussion with Page on Thursday but added it was unlikely that any plan would start Monday.

In a statement, Page’s spokesman also called the conversation productive and said that the county executive would have more information at his regular press conferences tomorrow and next week. Page previously has said that he would re-evaluate the stay-at-home order in mid-May. Parson’s executive order easing Missouri’s stay-at-home order allows local governments to keep more stringent regulations in place.

University City has announced a forgivable loan program for small businesses. The program sets aside $1 million to support local small businesses that need financial relief from the economic consequences of the coronavirus pandemic. The fund will come from a retail sales tax levied in 2006

The money can cover expenses such as payroll and utilities. To be eligible, businesses must be approved for the federal Payroll Protection Program or a Small Business Association loan. Applications for the first round of funding will open May 4.

Krewson hosted her first Kids Town Hall this morning. A https://youtu.be/blwX3yl5CME?t=34" target="_blank">St. Louis elementary student asked the mayor about a dozen questions about the coronavirus, including “How come we can’t make the medicine yet?” and “Are we forced to wear masks for the rest of our lives?” The questions were submitted beforehand from students in grades K-5. Krewson assured those tuning in to not worry. “The adults in your life and the adults in this country are on it,” she said.

— Kae Petrin, Jason Rosenbaum and Kayla Drake

9 a.m. Thursday, April 30

Good morning, y’all. Tonight, we’re holding a live Q&A with Statehouse reporter Jaclyn Driscoll about Missouri’s changing stay-at-home orders. What do you want to know about Gov. Parson’s plan to reopen Missouri on May 4? Email me at ltoler@stlpublicradio.org to submit your questions, and tune in to the St. Louis Public Radio livestream at 8 o’clock tonight on Twitch.

Reaction to the governor’s plan to start reopening the state on May 4 has been mixed. Union workers at the General Motors factory in Wentzville say they will not resume production next week. Meanwhile, St. Charles County, which has had fewer coronavirus cases than its neighbors, is pushing businesses to reopen. Read more about how St. Charles businesses are responding in our story: St. Charles County Businesses Look For Ways To Open, Adapt Amid Pandemic

Here are the latest coronavirus counts: 

  • St. Louis metro: 6,179 positive cases; 333 people have died. 
  • Missouri: 7,425 cases; 339 deaths.
  • Illinois: 50,355 cases; 2,215 deaths.

— Lindsay Toler

5 p.m. Wednesday, April 29

The St. Louis Metropolitan Task Force announced 702 COVID-19 hospitalizations as of Wednesday afternoon. That number is up from 678 yesterday. The number of patients in intensive care is up from 158 to 160 and the number of patients on ventilators has also increased from 113 yesterday to 121 today. Forty-two patients were discharged from area hospitals yesterday. 

Washington University is planning to hold its fall 2020 semester.

Chancellor Andrew D. Martin said the university has formed a Fall Contingency Planning Committee to review scenarios that could impact the university, including its residential life and university calendars.

“We are squarely focused on understanding the steps we must take now in order to allow us to welcome students back and begin our return to normal operations,” Martin said. “While there are still a number of unknowns, rest assured that however we proceed, we will do so in a smart, strategic way, with the safety of our community as our very highest priority.”

The committee is expected to release a report to Martin and the board of trustees in the coming weeks.

Two Illinois state representatives are suing Gov. J.B. Pritzker for issuing a statewide stay-at-home order.

One lawsuit alleges that extending the stay-at-home order violates state law, while the other suit challenges Pritzker’s use of emergency powers.

“[They’re saying] that somehow we’re intending to limit people’s civil liberties,” Pritzker said during a press briefing this week. “That’s not the intention here. The intention, in fact, is to save people’s lives.”

Missouri State Parks announced its first phase to reopen state park operations.

Castlewood State Park, Elephant Rocks State Park, Watkins Woolen Mill State Park and Weston Bend State Park will reopen May 11 for daily use only. Dining, marina, retail operations and concession-operated lodging are allowed to reopen May 4 at the discretion of concessionaires. 

“Never has access to our state parks been more important than during this period of COVID-19 response,” said Carol Comer, director of the Department of Natural Resources. “Missouri State Parks is committed to providing a safe and healthy environment for our visitors, volunteers and staff, and we are working toward resumption of additional services as soon as we can do so responsibly.”

Park campgrounds and lodging will remain closed through May 18. Other services including visitor centers, playgrounds, tours and pools also will remain closed.

— Chad Davis

3:35 p.m. Wednesday, April 29

A homeless encampment in downtown St. Louis will be dismantled on Friday.

Individuals living in the tent encampment along Market and Chestnut streets will be asked to collect their belongings and move into emergency shelters provided by the city, St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson said Wednesday.

“We’re going to do everything we can to persuade them to please go into one of the shelter rooms or shelter beds that we have available,” Krewson said, adding it’s a short-term solution to slow the spread of the coronavirus. 

Individuals living in the encampment are not able to shower or wash their clothing, Krewson said, which may increase their risk of contracting the virus. 

The city began leasing several local hotels this month, including the Mark Twain Hotel and Western Inn, to use as emergency homeless shelters. In Florissant, the city is leasing the former Little Sisters of the Poor nursing home, which will hold an estimated 125 people. 

The lease agreements stipulate that the city must provide armed security and at least two meals per day to residents.

All individuals must undergo a health screening before moving into the shelters — and any who test positive for the virus or show symptoms will not be allowed to live there.

Three additional COVID-19 test sites will open in north St. Louis County next week.

CareSTL Health will begin testing patients Monday at Ritenour High School, Riverview Gardens High School and Fairview Elementary School. To make an appointment, call CareSTL Health at 314-367-5820 and press 4.

St. Louis Public Radio has compiled a list of testing locations in the greater St. Louis region.

Several St. Louis music venues have revised their refund policies.

The Pageant, Delmar Hall and Blueberry Hill will provide refunds for all canceled shows, in accordance with their original ticket policy. 

Beginning Friday, if a show is rescheduled and a new date announced, ticket holders will have 30 days to request a refund. If a show is postponed indefinitely, ticket holders must wait 60 days before requesting a refund. 

A complete list of refund rules, as well as a list of postponed shows is available here.

The St. Louis Cardinals will refund tickets for Busch Stadium games scheduled for April and May.

Refunds will range from full refunds for single games, small group ticket holders and theme tickets to prorated refunds for ticket packs. The team announced Wednesday that many group ticket buyers, including luxury suite ticket holders and consignment group ticket buyers, will be contacted by a Cardinals representative with refund options. 

Those who purchased tickets from secondary ticket providers such as StubHub have been instructed to reach out to the specific provider regarding a potential refund.

Season ticket holders will receive account credit to use for a future game.

— Shahla Farzan and Chad Davis

12:15 p.m. Wednesday, April 29

St. Louis County Executive Sam Page is warning local businesses not to reopen while the county’s stay-at-home order remains in effect. 

“I would encourage any business in St. Louis County to get good legal advice about what it means to be operating outside of the laws of St. Louis County,” Page said Wednesday morning, in response to Eureka Mayor Sean Flower’s plan to let businesses reopen next week. 

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson will lift the statewide stay-at-home order on May 4, but he has said cities and counties can continue to enforce local restrictions. Page and St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson have extended stay-at-home orders for the St. Louis region indefinitely. 

Page said his office plans to present a “reopening strategy” by early next week. He emphasized the plans will not include a timeline for reopening until county health officials are confident that COVID-19 cases are declining and the community has access to enough test kits. The St. Louis County Health Department opened a bidding process Monday to purchase “tens of thousands” of tests, Page said.

Enterprise and Boeing have announced mass layoffs. 

Enterprise Holdings and its operating subsidiaries in St. Louis have laid off nearly 2,100 employees, according to state data. The layoffs include 820 workers at a St. Louis County call center, some of whom had been temporarily furloughed.

Plane manufacturer Boeing, which employs thousands in the St. Louis area, informed employees Wednesday of an impending 10% reduction in its workforce worldwide. 

“The demand for commercial airline travel has fallen off a cliff, with U.S. passenger volumes down 95% compared to last year,” Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun wrote in a letter to employees. He said the company also plans to reduce commercial airplane production rates this year.

Fort Leonard Wood is extending its public health emergency declaration until May 24 and is encouraging those on base to report people who aren’t following coronavirus guidelines. “If you see someone at Starbucks not wearing a face mask, politely ask them to fix themselves,” said Sgt. Maj. James Breckenridge. “If they don’t comply, get a name, get a description, and let us know so we can take care of that individual.”

Pulaski County, where Fort Leonard Wood is located, has had 33 confirmed coronavirus cases and one death. The base commander, Maj. Gen. Donna Martin, said infections at the installation have not peaked yet. “The trend of cases in our region do not indicate that we are on a downward slope or side of this curve,” she said.

All St. Louis County Library programs have been canceled through June. Library branches remain closed until further notice, but online learning programs and content are accessible through the library’s Virtual Branch.

— Shahla Farzan and Jonathan Ahl

9 a.m. Wednesday, April 29

Good morning. 

The St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force released these numbers about how the area is handling the coronavirus outbreak: There are 678 patients hospitalized in the St. Louis region, down from 690 patients on Monday. Of those hospitalized patients, 159 are in intensive care units, and 113 are using ventilators. Fifty patients with COVID-19 were discharged on Monday, and a total of 1,167 patients have been discharged since the outbreak began.

Here are the latest coronavirus counts

  • St. Louis metro: 6,013 positive cases; 323 people have died. 
  • Missouri: 7,303 cases; 331 deaths.
  • Illinois: 48,102 cases; 2,125 deaths.

A reminder: Our St. Louis metro counts of coronavirus cases and deaths include five Metro East counties: Monroe, Madison, St. Clair, Jersey and Clinton. 
What are your questions about Gov. Mike Parson’s plans to reopen Missouri on May 4? Statehouse reporter Jaclyn Driscoll will join me on the St. Louis Public Radio livestream at 8 p.m. tomorrow on Twitch to answer your questions about how the changes affect residents, schools and businesses. Send in your questions so I can include them in our conversation. Email me: ltoler@stlpublicradio.org

— Lindsay Toler


9:15 p.m. Tuesday, April 28

The city of Eureka will allow businesses to open on Monday, Mayor Sean Flower announced in a statement issued Tuesday.

Flower said he plans to follow Gov. Mike Parson’s statewide reopening plan, even though many of Eureka’s businesses are in St. Louis County, which is under a stay-at-home order indefinitely. 


“We can no longer follow the rules we are under without economic ruin,” Flower said. “We are going to need to learn to both deal with the virus while at the same time opening our economy, restoring our kids' lives and opportunities and taking care of our families and our country.”

Flower said Eureka has differed from the county on coronavirus issues before, such as keeping its parks open when the county’s were closed. “And we differ on the issue of extending stay-at-home guidance indefinitely,” he said.

— Andrea Henderson

2:55 p.m. Tuesday, April 28

St. Charles County will begin reducing social distancing and stay-at-home mandates on Monday. County Executive Steve Ehlmann said he’s following Gov. Mike Parson’s lead on restarting the state’s economy.

“We believe St. Charles County is ready to reduce restrictions and, while continuing to require social distancing, allow individuals to make decisions on whether to frequent a business,” Ehlmann said in a statement, while noting the number of coronavirus infections in his county are half those of neighboring St. Louis County.

St. Charles County’s stay-at-home order went into effect March 23, though it always allowed businesses to decide for themselves whether they were essential.

Missouri Democrats will not meet in person to nominate candidates or rally support. Instead, the state party's summer convention will be held online starting June 13, the state party announced. Delegate voting will be done through a mix of online and mail-in ballots.

Missourians receiving nutrition assistance will get extra help through the end of May. The state Department of Social Services announced today a continuation of providing maximum benefits for another month to anyone eligible for SNAP benefits, also known as food stamps.

Spire will not disconnect customers’ gas lines or collect late fees until at least the end of May, the utility provider announced today. The St. Louis-based utility company, serves 1.7 million customers in Missouri, Alabama and Mississippi. Spire, along with electricity provider Ameren, first announced it would suspend disconnections and late fees in mid-March.

— Ryan Delaney

11:30 a.m. Tuesday, April 28

St. Louis County is reopening its parks. County Executive Sam Page announced that more than 30 parks will reopen today. Park facilities like indoor shelters and restrooms will remain closed. Page told reporters that park rangers will be on hand to remind people to maintain social distancing and not gather in groups.

University City will open its parks on May 1. 

Republican members of the county council, including Councilman Tim Fitch, had asked for parks to be reopened earlier this month. Fitch questioned whether the move to close them was effective since the city of St. Louis and some municipalities in the county kept their parks open.

The rest of St. Louis County’s restrictions on businesses and gatherings remain in place.

African American clergy from St. Louis are asking for “a couple more weeks” of stay-at-home mandates in order to protect the region’s black population. The St. Louis Metropolitan Clergy Coalition Tuesday said it opposes Gov. Mike Parson’s plan to reopen the state starting May 4

“This is personal for us,” the Rev. Darryl Gray said during a press conference, referring to the disproportionate toll COVID-19 has taken on black people in the region. The first 12 people to die in St. Louis from the disease were black.

County Executive Page and St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson earlier this month extended their stay-at-home orders indefinitely and said they would reevaluate ahead of May 4. 

St. Louis County Library is handing out more than 200 tablets pre-packed with PBS Kids educational content starting Wednesday. The devices don’t require an internet connection to view videos or use the apps.

The first giveaway will be in the parking lot of Hancock Place Elementary School on South Broadway in Lemay, 9-10:30 a.m. Wednesday. A second giveaway will happen in the Ritenour School District in the near future.

Can’t get a pre-loaded tablet but have a television? Nine Network, the St. Louis area’s PBS station, started a two-hour TV block of early education instruction this week. Tune into KETC Channel 9 Monday through Thursday afternoons for “Teaching in Room 9,” from 12:30-2:30 for pre-K and early elementary-level reading and math.

— Jason Rosenbaum and Ryan Delaney

9:15 a.m. Tuesday, April 28

Good morning, and happy Tuesday

The state of Missouri will allow all businesses to reopen on May 4, but they must continue to adhere to social distancing guidelines, Gov. Mike Parson announced yesterday. There will be occupancy limits and possibly protective equipment requirements for certain kinds of business. 

Parson reiterated that counties and cities throughout the state may create and enforce their own ordinances as long as their rules and regulations are more strict than the statewide orders. He specifically mentioned that harder-hit areas like St. Louis and Kansas City may need to reopen at a slower pace. Read more: Missouri To Reopen Businesses Next Week, Local Rules Still Apply.

About three-quarters of the nearly 60,000 people who filed unemployment claims in Missouri the week of April 12 said their claims were related to the coronavirus, according to the state. The number of initial claims is down more than 40% from the week before. The state says it’s paying more than $48 million in unemployment benefits for the week of April 12.

Here are the latest coronavirus counts: 

  • St. Louis metro: 5,913 positive cases; 314 people have died. 
  • Missouri: 7,171 cases; 322 deaths.
  • Illinois: 45,883 cases; 1,983 deaths.

Join us at 8 tonight on Twitch for a livestream conversation with reporter Shahla Farzan about how wildlife rescuers are caring for baby animals without the teams of volunteers they usually have. Read her story: Wildlife Rescuers Scramble To Care For Baby Animals During Pandemic.

— Lindsay Toler

4:35 p.m. Monday, April 27

Missouri businesses can reopen Monday if they follow social distancing guidelines, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson announced today.

Under the governor’s plan to reopen state businesses closed to limit the spread of the coronavirus, businesses are encouraged to minimize travel, allow employees to work remotely and prohibit employees with symptoms from returning to work until they’ve been cleared by a medical provider. 

Retail businesses will still be required to take some precautions, such as imposing their own limits on how many people can be inside an establishment. There’s no limit on how many people can gather in public spaces as long as they stay six feet from each other.

The number of people with coronavirus symptoms is declining in Missouri, but not in the St. Louis area, Parson said at an afternoon press conference. Local officials can extend stay-at-home orders in their areas and impose stricter rules than the state, he said.

“This is the turning of a dial, not the flip of a switch,” Parson said. 

SSM Health will furlough 2,000 workers. The St.-Louis based health care system said patient volume is down by 50% due to the pandemic, and that’s hurting its bottom line. About 5% of its workforce is expected to take a 13-week unpaid furlough starting May 1, and other workers will see reduced hours. The health system operates sites in Missouri, Illinois, Wisconsin and Oklahoma. A spokeswoman said the company could not share how many employees would be affected in the St. Louis region.

The top three elected officials in St. Louis have voted to boost by $1 million the city’s funding for affordable housing in next year’s budget.

The original budget for the 2021 fiscal year proposed putting just the legal minimum of $5 million into the Affordable Housing Trust Fund. Mayor Lyda Krewson, Comptroller Darlene Green and Board of Aldermen President Lewis Reed agreed Monday to reduce the city’s contribution to its rainy day fund by $1 million and instead direct that revenue toward the housing fund, for a total of $6 million. 

The trust fund helps pay for new affordable housing and fund programs to keep people in their homes. The need for those programs is expected to increase as the coronavirus pandemic grinds on.

Aldermen will begin their work on the budget next month. The city is facing a deficit of at least $40 million. A balanced budget must be in place by June 30.

— Eli Chen, Corinne Ruff and Rachel Lippmann

11:50 a.m. Monday, April 27

St. Louis County is adding two COVID-19 testing sites. Drive-through tests will be administered by appointment only starting today at the John C. Murphy clinic in Berkeley, as well as at the South County Health Center in Sunset Hills. You can make an appointment online or call 314-615-0574. 

St. Louis University law students are eligible for monetary relief. The law program received a $25,000 emergency grant from nonprofit AccessLex Institute to help students meet their essential expenses during the pandemic. Student applications will be considered and awarded on a rolling basis until the funds run out.

The Deaconess Foundation will provide local black-led organizations with $2.2 million in emergency support for COVID-19 relief. The Equitable Relief and Recovery Fund was established with money from Deaconess and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to help organizations provide more direct aid — like food, shelter and financial support.

United Way of Greater St. Louis and the St. Louis Regional Health Commission will each receive $250,000 from the fund. Additionally, Solidarity Economy St. Louis will get $25,000 to redistribute to individuals affected by the pandemic. Deaconess will award additional grants between $5,000 and $50,000. You can apply online starting Tuesday.

The Illinois Workers' Compensation Commission repealed an emergency rule that would have granted workers’ comp benefits to essential workers who contracted COVID-19. 

The Illinois Manufacturers' Association and the Illinois Retail Merchants Association last week filed a lawsuit, arguing the rule overreached the commission's authority in presuming that all workers who tested positive for the coronavirus contracted it on the job. 

“If left unchecked, this rule would have subject Illinois businesses to billions of dollars in added costs at a time when many are struggling to make payroll and retain employees,” said a statement from the groups’ leaders.

St. Louis County Executive Sam Page announced new members of an advisory group that will guide his administration on spending federal money granted through the CARES Act. 

As he previously announced, Cindy Brinkley will lead the group and focus on economic recovery. Deborah Patterson will guide the humanitarian relief component, and Dr. Paul Hintze will oversee the public health side. Kathy Rehmer will handle compliance for the group.

Page also said the county plans to reopen its parks soon with some restrictions. He will provide more information Tuesday morning about when and how that will be done.

— Corinne Ruff

9 a.m. Monday, April 27

Good morning and welcome to Day 48 of the St. Louis Public Radio coronavirus live blog. Thank you for reading. Don’t miss this past weekend’s updates for an encouraging report from the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandmeic Task Force. 

Today, the Muny announced its plan for a shortened summer season, including pushing “Mary Poppins” and “Sweeney Todd” to next season. If shows are not possible this summer, the theater will postpone its entire season to next year. Read more: The Muny Eyes A Shortened Season In Forest Park If Coronavirus Fears Ease

Missouri lawmakers are headed back to Jefferson City today to pass a state budget even as the financial future of the state is largely unknown. They’re on a tight schedule to meet the May 8 deadline. 

Here are the latest coronavirus counts

  • St. Louis metro: 5,666 positive cases; 268 people have died. 
  • Missouri: 6,997 cases; 282 deaths.
  • Illinois: 43,903 cases; 1,933 deaths.

— Lindsay Toler

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