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Coronavirus In The St. Louis Region: May 4-10, 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.

9 a.m. Sunday, May 10

Good morning, happy Sunday and happy Mother's Day.

The latest numbers from the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force show a slight decrease in average hospitalizations, from 625 people Friday to 608 yesterday. The number of patients in intensive care increased, from 133 Friday to 138 Saturday, while the number of patients on ventilators also increased slightly to 108. 

In other news, the last week of Missouri’s legislative session begins Monday. Leaders say they expect the week to be uneventful.

Many large buildings in St. Louis will have to abide by new energy standards to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the city. Building owners will need to start meeting the standards by May 2025.

Here are the latest coronavirus counts: 

  • St. Louis metro (bi-state): 7,935 positive cases; 521 people have died. 
  • Missouri: 9,666 cases; 556 deaths.
  • Illinois: 73,760 cases; 3,349 deaths.

— Chad Davis


9 a.m. Saturday, May 9

Good morning, and happy Saturday.

In the midst of a pandemic, the Missouri Legislature passed a $35.2 billion budget on Friday. A large chunk of the money will come from relief funds from the federal government. 

There was significant debate about whether the Legislature could fairly create a balanced budget, because general revenue collections are down and no one knows how much more money the state may receive in federal relief. It’s possible that lawmakers will return to Jefferson City next month for a special session to modify the budget.


Some of the key takeaways are that K-12 education won’t see any cuts, but Missouri’s universities could see a 10% drop in funding if federal help doesn’t come through.

In the St. Louis region, both city and county officials are revealing their plans for what reopening the economy will look like. Most businesses will be allowed to open again on May 18, but with restrictions on the number of people allowed in a building, construction of barriers between employees and customers and some requirements about employees and customers wearing face masks. 

The county is not allowing day care and summer camps to open, but Mayor Lyda Krewson said on St. Louis on the Air that the city will allow some child care facilities to open, with certain restrictions.

Here are the latest coronavirus counts: 

  • St. Louis metro (bi-state): 7,771 positive cases; 508 people have died. 
  • Missouri: 9,489 cases; 486 deaths.
  • Illinois: 73,760 cases; 3,241 deaths.

— Shula Neuman

9 p.m. Friday, May 8

A federal judge has rejected a request from two businesses that he block St. Louis and St. Louis County officials from requiring businesses to remain closed during stay-at-home orders.

A lawsuit filed on behalf of Elders Antiques and SH3 Health Consulting, which operates Anytime Fitness on Manchester Road, asked U.S. District Judge Stephen R. Clark to stop officials from the orders on the grounds that Missouri law does not grant governments the authority to close “private places of assembly,” including gyms or antiques stores.

In a ruling Friday, Clark wrote that the concerns of the businesses “do not outweigh the severe harm” that could occur to residents of St. Louis and St. Louis County if he overrode local officials’ orders designed to keep the coronavirus from spreading.

“Government authorities must have the ability to maintain public health and safety in times of great crises such as these,” Clark wrote.

Affinia Healthcare will offer COVID-19 testing at the NAACP St. Louis County headquarters, 26 North Oaks Plaza, starting Tuesday, officials for the health care company and the NAACP announced. The mobile testing station will screen individuals to determine if they should be tested for COVID-19.

David Cazares and Eric Schmid

6 p.m. Friday, May 8

Mercy health care system plans to lay off some workers and furlough others because the coronavirus crisis has cut its revenues.

Hospital leaders said in a statement the layoffs would begin next week and affect every department and level of the Chesterfield-based hospital chain. They did not specify how many people would lose their jobs.

SSM Health and BJC Healthcare also announced layoffs in previous weeks. Hospitals have suffered losses in recent months as they curtailed and canceled elective procedures, which can account for more than half of a hospital’s revenue.

St. Louis University Hospital nurses have sent a complaint to the city health department over the availability of masks and other protective equipment at the hospital.

The union that represents the nurses wrote that the hospital is making them reuse N95 respirator masks over multiple shifts without being properly decontaminated. The complaint also said gowns and surgical masks were being reused. 

The letter claims the hospital’s practices violate guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A representative of the SSM Health-run hospital said in an email that the hospital follows those CDC guidelines.

— Sarah Fentem and Brian Heffernan

12:50 p.m. Friday, May 8

St. Louis will begin easing some of the restrictions city officials put in place to limit the spread of the coronavirus, but it will also implement new ones, Mayor Lyda Krewson said Friday.

Starting May 18, restaurants in the city can open, but tables must be six feet apart. Retail shops also can open, but employees must wear face masks and customers should also, Krewson said on St. Louis On The Air.

Krewson said large venues like the St. Louis Zoo, Gateway Arch, the St. Louis Art Museum and the St. Louis Aquarium at Union Station will not be able to open immediately. She said city officials will work with large venues over the next few weeks to determine when that will be possible.

Krewson said she thinks “it’s just extremely important” that restaurants and retail businesses open — but customers will share responsibility for keeping people safe.

“Obviously you can’t wear the mask while you’re eating, but your server can wear the mask and obviously you can wear the mask in and out,” the mayor said. “Most likely, you will be dining with people who you are close to.”

“If you have any symptoms — if you are sick at all — you don’t belong in a restaurant. I think what we all have to do is limit exposure,” she said.

A St. Louis alderwoman wants to make it easier for older residents in the city to get absentee ballots for the upcoming election.

A resolution sponsored by Megan Green, D-15th Ward, asks the St. Louis Board of Election Commissioners to at the very least mail absentee ballot applications to all voters over 60, because they are at higher risk of serious complications from the coronavirus. The ACLU of Missouri and other organizations have sued to allow fear of contracting COVID-19 to be a valid reason to vote absentee. A hearing on that case is scheduled for Tuesday.

— David Cazares and Rachel Lippmann

10:30 a.m. Friday, May 8

St. Louis County Executive Sam Page provided more details about the county’s easing of its stay-at-home order.

At a press conference on Friday, Page said that starting on May 18, some facilities will be allowed to reopen with restrictions on occupancy. Businesses, personal services and religious institutions that are in buildings of less than 10,000 square feet are limited to 25% occupancy. And entities of 10,000 square feet or more are limited to 10% occupancy.

Businesses will have to install barriers between customers and employees when possible. They also have to arrange hours of operations for individuals who are at risk of contracting COVID-19 and can deny services to people who refuse to wear face coverings. And in most circumstances, they’ll require employees and volunteers to wear masks, screen people for coronavirus and disinfect surfaces.

The order will require some businesses to remain closed. They include gyms and fitness centers, entertainment venues and sports courts. Bars that do not serve food will be limited to curbside and carryout service. Indoor and outdoor pools will also remain closed.

Page also told reporters that restrictions on day cares, which can only currently serve children of first responders and emergency personnel, remain unchanged. In response to a question about the status of summer camps, Page said the county “is not ready to discuss the opening of camps or congregated gatherings that are high risk.”

“We are going to watch the data over the next couple of weeks and continue to talk about that,” Page said.

You can read the details of the revised stay-at-home order by clicking here.

— Jason Rosenbaum

5 p.m. Thursday, May 7

Good morning.

St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson will be on St. Louis on the Air at noon today. Host Sarah Fenske will ask Krewson about what reopening St. Louis will look like, the city’s decision to clear a downtown encampment for homeless people and more. 

Have a question or comment about reopening St. Louis? What do you want us to ask the mayor on today’s show? Send an email to talk@stlpublicradio.org, or share your thoughts via our St. Louis on the Air Facebook group.

Here are the latest coronavirus counts: 

  • St. Louis metro (bi-state): 7,569 positive cases; 465 people have died. 
  • Missouri: 9,341 cases; 455 deaths.
  • Illinois: 70,873 cases; 3,111 deaths.

— Lindsay Toler

5 p.m. Thursday, May 7

You might save a bit of money on your state income taxes. The Missouri House of Representatives has passed a tax bill that would prevent federal stimulus payments from being taxed as income by the state. 

The federal checks — provided under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act — aren’t treated as income under federal tax law. But current Missouri law would require taxpayers to count the stimulus payment toward their income. 

The bill also makes several changes to tax law that are unrelated to the coronavirus. The Senate still has to consider the bill, which is scheduled for a final vote tomorrow. 

You can now see for yourself how Missouri is spending federal relief funds dedicated to its coronavirus response. Missouri Auditor Nicole Galloway has launched a website to track how much the state is receiving and spending on pandemic relief. It also lists which state and local governments, departments and vendors are receiving the most money. 

The state has already received more than $2 billion; more than $476 million has been distributed across Missouri’s counties, including $47.1 million to St. Charles County, $35.2 million to the city of St. Louis, and $26.4 million to Jefferson County.

More detailed information is available on the Department of Economic Development’s Missouri Accountability Portal

The Missouri State Highway Patrol is reopening some of its locations for driver testing on May 11. The patrol requests that applicants wear masks in exam buildings and sanitize their vehicles before driving skills tests. Find a location near you on the patrol’s website.

And, calling all artsy types! The Hannibal Arts Council is having an online photo exhibit later this summer. It wants to feature digital images from anywhere, and it’s asking people to send in their five favorite photos they’ve taken on any device. 

The exhibit will be shown in an album on the council’s Facebook, rather than at an in-person event, because of coronavirus-related restrictions on businesses. The council will also display the images on a large television at its headquarters. 

— Kae Petrin


1:25 p.m. Thursday, May 7

Missouri University of Science and Technology in Rolla will lay off some employees and place others on furlough as part of more than $8 million in budget cuts. The revenue shortfall is caused by the coronavirus-related closure of campus housing and cuts in state funding.

Furloughs could range from a week to three months, but those employees would keep their health benefits during that time, Chancellor Mo Dehghani said today during a virtual town hall meeting.

Missouri S&T has started a monthslong approach to bringing employees back to campus and plans to resume in-person classes in the fall.

BJC Health Care will require all visitors to its hospitals and doctor’s offices to wear a face mask starting today. The health care system is citing guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and applying them to all patients, employees and visitors in all of its buildings.

The policy applies to everyone age 2 and older who can safely wear a mask. The masks can be homemade and out of any material. Patients will be provided a mask if they don’t have one.

The federal Department of Health and Human Services has announced additional grants to health centers and clinics in the St. Louis region. The money is part of nearly $600 million going to community-based health centers nationwide.

The latest awards include Affinia Healthcare, St. Louis, $754,549; Betty Jean Kerr-People’s Health Centers, St. Louis, $606,619; CareSTL Health, St. Louis, $398,359; Family Health Care Centers, St. Louis, $410,554; Southern Illinois Health Care Foundation, East St. Louis, $1.68 million; and South Central Missouri Community Health Center, Rolla, $208,399.

— Jonathan Ahl

9 a.m. Thursday, May 7

Good morning, blog readers. 

Details are sparse about how St. Louis and St. Louis County plan to allow businesses to reopen later this month. But here’s what we know so far: St. Louis Businesses Can Start To Reopen May 18, But Many Aren’t Ready

Our arts team has a double feature this morning about how theaters are preparing for the day when patrons can visit again. Movie theaters are trying to figure out how to keep six feet of space between visitors. And live theaters are implementing contactless ticket scanning, daily temperature tests for cast and crew, and earlier seating times to prevent gathering in groups. 

Speaking of theaters, are you planning to visit the Skyview Drive-in Movie Theater in Belleville this weekend? We are reporting a story about the return of the drive-in. If you go, what movie will you see? We’d love to talk to you about your drive-in plans. Email our reporter Marissanne Lewis-Thompson at mlewisthompson@stlpublicradio.org

Here are the latest coronavirus counts: 

  • St. Louis metro (bi-state): 7,437 positive cases; 460 people have died. 
  • Missouri: 9,102 cases; 449 deaths.
  • Illinois: 68,232 cases; 2,974 deaths.

— Lindsay Toler

5:15 p.m. Wednesday, May 6

Thirsty St. Louisans will likely be able to saddle up to a bar on May 18, when the city will begin easing its social distancing restrictions. Whether they’ll be able to get a haircut is “up in the air,” Mayor Lyda Krewson said in a Facebook Live briefing this afternoon.

Krewson and St. Louis County Executive Sam Page have provided few details about their plans to allow businesses to reopen 12 days from now, but the mayor did say that bars and restaurants would be able to reopen. She also said staff may be required to wear masks and customers should expect to see plexiglass dividers separating them from cashiers. 

“We’re entering a period of time where we’re going to have another time of rapid change, and the thing we’re going to have to remember is that change comes with some risk,” Krewson said. “We don’t want to blow the gains we’ve made.”

The rate of new coronavirus cases in the St. Louis metro has stabilized below the peak infection levels of early April. That’s given political leaders in the region confidence to ease public health restrictions. But some business owners say they are reluctant to swing their doors wide open when the stay-at-home limits begin to relax. 

St. Louis got a big deposit in its bank account today. Krewson said the state’s wire transfer of $35 million in federal coronavirus aid has arrived. The money can only be used for virus-specific costs, such as protective equipment, testing and temporary homeless shelters.

St. Louis is staring down a revenue shortfall between $85 million and $126 million because of the related economic downtown. Krewson said she’s trying hard to avoid a “major cut” in city jobs.

Missouri is receiving $66 million from the federal CARES Act for child care needs. The money will allow low-income families looking for work to be eligible for 90-day childcare benefits through December, said state Department of Social Services director Jennifer Tidball. In addition, families with incomes up to 215% of the poverty level and with a “documented childcare need” will have access subsidies for transitional child care.

The state is also getting $1.5 million in federal money to buy shelf-stable foods for food banks. The money will be divided among the Missouri's six regional food banks that assist over 1,000 food pantries, homeless shelters, soup kitchens, domestic violence shelters or other meal-serving locations. St. Louis Area Foodbank will receive $438,669.

The pandemic is hitting food banks hard and the need for emergency food is surging, said Scott Baker, who leads the six-food-bank coalition. In addition to the immediate need for food, the rapid demand for supply is forcing the price of food to increase, he said.

Some hotels in Illinois are now offering free rooms to residents who need a safe space to quarantine, Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced Wednesday. With help from city and county public health departments, hotels will provide free meals, medical assistance and other support services to aid those in isolation. 

Gov. Pritzker also mentioned during his daily briefing that the Illinois Welcoming Center Program will be used as COVID-19 hubs for immigrants and Native American communities seeking social services and information about testing sites and food pantries.

— Ryan Delaney, Jaclyn Driscoll and Andrea Henderson

10:15 a.m. Wednesday, May 6

Any St. Louis County businesses wanting to reopen later this month will be required to make its employees wear face masks. County Executive Sam Page said this morning that businesses will also have the right to refuse service to customers who are not covering their faces.

“A slow, responsible and measured and deliberate reopening can be done, as long as we maintain social-distancing; we limit crowd sizes; and we all wear masks,” Page told reporters.

Page did not say what types of businesses will be able to open May 18 or what steps businesses will have to take beyond requiring masks. More details will be released later this week, he said.

“We must get our economy going again and we understand that, but our first priority will always be to save lives, to protect the health and welfare of everyone in our community. And that’s how we’re going to drive this question moving forward,” he said.

Page said controlling the pandemic is beginning to shift from large-scale isolation to “a more measured public health strategy” through identifying, tracing and containing hot spots. The county executive said further relaxation or tightening of social-distance orders will be driven by data, such as a drop in the number of hospitalizations and acute cases of COVID-19.

St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson is expected to add specifics to new guidelines for the city, which is also scheduled for May 18, later this week. The city and county administrations are working together on rules and timelines.

— Ryan Delaney

8:40 a.m. Wednesday, May 6

Good morning. We expect news today about how St. Louis and St. Louis County plan to reopen later this month after weeks of stay-at-home restrictions. We’ll post updates here on the blog, on our homepage and over the radio at 90.7 FM. 

Speaking of reopening, St. Charles County Executive Steve Ehlmann spoke yesterday about reopening his county’s economy on St. Louis on the Air. He said he’s only seen a handful of businesses reopen, but he’s also not looking too hard because his age makes him more susceptible to severe illness due to COVID-19. Listen to the full conversation: St. Charles County Executive Steve Ehlmann On Reopening Amid Pandemic

Are you a practicing lawyer? How are you preparing to return to court when public buildings reopen? What has you worried about going back to work? We’d like to hear what difficulties you expect in your profession as Missouri and Illinois begin to reopen. Email me if you’re willing to talk to a reporter: ltoler@stlpublicradio.org

Here are the latest coronavirus counts: 

  • St. Louis metro (bi-state): 7,285 positive cases; 432 people have died. 
  • Missouri: 8,916 cases; 422 deaths.
  • Illinois: 65,962 cases; 2,838 deaths.

— Lindsay Toler

6 p.m. Tuesday, May 5

St. Louis city and County will begin easing public health restrictions May 18. St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson and St. Louis County Executive Sam Page plan to provide more detailed guidance for businesses and residents this week.

The regional leaders said in emailed statements that they will continue urging people to maintain social distancing practices, including wearing a mask, avoiding large crowds and staying home when possible. Page is expected to discuss the decision in detail during his 8:30 a.m. briefing tomorrow.

Metro Transit riders must wear face masks beginning Monday. The requirement applies to all riders using its bus, MetroLink or Call-A-Ride services, except for infants and those who have difficulty breathing. MetroBus is planning to resume fare collection and front-door boarding on June 1.

Missouri public housing authorities will get nearly $5 million. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development today allocated the funding, which was made available through the federal coronavirus relief bill passed in March. Housing authorities can use the money to cover costs related to protecting families and employees during the pandemic. The St. Louis Housing Authority will receive about $840,000, and the Housing Authority of St. Louis County will get about $805,000.

— Corinne Ruff

4:40 p.m. Tuesday, May 5

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Tuesday announced a five-phase plan to reopen the state. The plan would divide the state into four regions and allow for the gradual easing of restrictions on businesses and gatherings in those areas as their rate of new coronavirus infections slows.

Pritzker said the state is currently in the second phase, which involves implementing social distancing and other techniques to limit infections. The first phase was the rapid spread of the virus. The four regions are: northeast, north-central, central and southern Illinois.

Those regions can begin allowing gatherings of 10 or fewer people when less than 20% of their tests are positive and the rate of new cases does not increase by more than 10 percentage points over a 14-day period. No region in the state is likely to reach that benchmark before May 29, Pritzker said. 

When the rate of infection and hospitalizations continues to decline further, the state would then allow gatherings of up to 50 people, and restaurants and schools could reopen. Illinoisans would still need to wear face coverings and practice social distancing during this time. The final phase, in which the economy can fully reopen, only comes when a vaccine or effective treatment for COVID-19 becomes widely available, Pritzker said.

“I understand the urge to try and flip the switch and reopen our entire economy,” Pritzker said during his daily press briefing. “Here’s the problem: That switch simply does not exist with a virus that can’t currently be eliminated by medical science.” 

Since yesterday, 176 people in Illinois have died from the coronavirus. That’s the largest jump in deaths the state has seen over a 24-hour period, according to state health director Dr. Ngozi Ezike. More than 2,800 people in Illinois have died of COVID-19.

The Illinois Air National guard will open a coronavirus testing center Wednesday in East St. Louis. The facility will offer drive-thru and walk-up services seven days a week at the Jackie Joyner Kersee Center. Airmen from Scott Air Force Base and the 183rd Wing based in Springfield will run the site. Here’s a list of other places to get tested for the virus in the St. Louis region.

St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in O’Fallon, Illinois, will resume offering elective surgeries and procedures early next week. Patients are required to test negative for the coronavirus within 72 hours of a scheduled procedure and must self-quarantine after being tested until the day of the surgery.

Contract workers in Illinois may be eligible for new federal unemployment benefits. Workers who file 1099 tax forms and have lost jobs due to the coronavirus can apply for benefits under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program starting May 11 through the Illinois Department of Employment Security’s website. Workers need to apply first for regular unemployment insurance before submitting a claim. 

Two more workers and an inmate at Southeast Correctional Center in Charleston, Missouri, have tested positive for the coronavirus. A total of 31 inmates and 5 staff members have been infected at the prison. 

— Eli Chen

11:40 a.m. Tuesday, May 5

The St. Louis region needs to test more people for the coronavirus. It also needs more people working to determine who those who tested positive came into contact with, Mayor Lyda Krewson said today.

“If we get a second spike [in cases], the only thing we have to tamp that down is a change in behavior,” Krewson said at a meeting for the St. Louis and Kansas City chambers of commerce.

Krewson also said St. Louis businesses likely will be allowed to reopen in mid-May. Kansas City plans to allow businesses to open gradually, starting Wednesday.

Pharmaceutical corporation Pfizer has started testing its experimental vaccines on people in the U.S. to fight the coronavirus. The company is testing four potential vaccines, some of which are being developed at its St. Louis County facility, according to St. Louis County Executive Sam Page. Pfizer is working with German pharmaceutical company BioNTech to run human trials, which began in late April in Germany. 

Pfizer’s vaccine trials are taking place at the NYU Grossman School of Medicine and the University of Maryland School of Medicine. It took less than four months to progress from initial studies to human testing, the company said.

A federal lawsuit aims to block St. Louis and St. Louis County officials from requiring businesses to remain closed while stay-at-home orders remain in effect.

The lawsuit, filed on behalf of Elders Antiques and SH3 Health Consulting, which operates Anytime Fitness on Manchester Road, asks U.S. District Judge Stephen R. Clark to stop local officials from enforcing orders that keep some businesses closed. The two businesses are considered “non-essential businesses” and cannot operate under the local orders, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit claims that under Missouri law, local governments don’t have the authority to close “places of private assembly,” including gyms or antiques stores.

Gov. Mike Parson has said businesses in most of the state can reopen, but local municipalities can still enforce more stringent orders.

Sorry, cyclists. Missouri State Parks has canceled the 2020 Katy Trail Ride to protect people from the coronavirus. The five-day, 240-mile ride through scenic rural communities along the Missouri River was scheduled for June 22. Organizers said many of the communities and facilities needed for the event would not be able to accommodate federal and state social distancing guidelines.
— Eli Chen and Kae Petrin

9 a.m. Tuesday, May 5

Good morning, and happy Cinco de Mayo. 

Don’t miss this feel-good story about the oldest person thought to have survived COVID-19 in the U.S. Rudi Heider, a 107-year-old retired chemist and professor, has lived through the Spanish flu, two world wars and now the coronavirus pandemic. He is currently recovering from the virus in his room at the Friendship Village Chesterfield Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation Center.

We asked experts how consumers will be impacted by uncertain agriculture markets. “I think at the grocery store, some certain kinds of varieties and cuts of meat may not be available for short periods of time,” said Seth Meyer, an agricultural economist at the University of Missouri. “But I don’t anticipate any shortages.” Read more: Coronavirus Effects On Missouri Agriculture Are Severe But Inconsistent

Here are the latest coronavirus counts

  • St. Louis metro (bi-state): 7,148 positive cases; 404 people have died. 
  • Missouri: 8,754 cases; 402 deaths.
  • Illinois: 63,840 cases; 2,662 deaths.

— Lindsay Toler

10:20 p.m. Monday, May 4

Businesses in Rolla will be able to open tomorrow morning. The Rolla City Council voted unanimously Monday night to lift its stay-at-home ordinance, but with restrictions:

  • Restaurants will be able to resume dine-in service, but no more than eight people may sit at a table, and occupied tables must be placed at least six feet apart. 
  • Hair salons and other personal service businesses may operate, but employees must wear protective masks. 
  • Houses of worship may hold services, but the congregations must practice social distancing. 

“We now believe it’s time to smartly open our businesses so our merchants can survive, and citizen employees can again receive a much-needed paycheck before permanent financial damage is incurred,” Mayor Lou Magdits said. Phelps County has had two confirmed cases of coronavirus, and no deaths, according to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services.

BJC Healthcare will furlough employees across the health system for at least eight weeks, hospital leaders announced in a written statement Monday. 

Hospital officials did not specify how many workers will be off work without pay or when the furloughs will start. BJC Healthcare comprises 15 hospitals in Missouri and Illinois, including Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis.

Starting in March, hospitals canceled elective surgeries and procedures, established testing sites and purchased millions of pieces of personal protective equipment in response to the coronavirus crisis. Those measures placed financial strain on the organization, said BJC President Rich Liekweg, who said employee furloughs were a “last resort.” BJC has also suspended its retirement program matches. It has frozen hiring and wage increases and canceled many construction projects. 

SSM Health and Washington University have announced similar furloughs as a result of a loss of income related to the COVID-19 outbreak.

— Jonathan Ahl and Sarah Fentem

4:45 p.m. Monday, May 4

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson's plan to jump-start much of the state's economy after a month-long shutdown to help limit the spread of the coronavirus got underway Monday. All businesses were allowed to open, as long as counties and cities did not have stay-at-home orders in place. 

“I want to remind everyone to be safe, to be smart and to be responsible,” Parson said at his daily press briefing. “We are on the road to recovery and we must continue to be proactive and maintain social distancing to protect ourselves and everyone around us.”

Parson said the next two weeks are important as businesses begin to reopen and stimulate Missouri’s economy. 

St. Louis should receive its federal coronavirus aid this week, Mayor Lyda Krewson said today.

St. Louis is set to get about $35 million in assistance, less per person than St. Louis County, which will receive $173.5 million. The federal law required states to distribute money to cities with less than 500,000 people. Krewson said she is working to boost that amount, and, if successful, her priorities include a small-business relief package similar to the one announced by County Executive Sam Page.

The federal Small Business Administration will begin providing disaster loans to owners of agricultural businesses such as ranching and small farming operations.

Businesses with fewer than 500 employees can apply for a low-interest, long-term Economic Injury Disaster Loan to offset losses caused by the coronavirus. The SBA is only accepting new loan applications from agricultural businesses due to an “unprecedented” number of applications it has already received from other small businesses.

When Airbnb says “no parties,” it means business.

The house-sharing platform announced Monday any guests throwing a party or hosting a gathering in violation of public health orders while renting a property through Airbnb in St. Louis will be banned from using the service.

“We will be cooperating with St. Louis police in any investigations relating to parties and violations of public health mandates,” the company said in a written announcement Monday. 

— Jaclyn Driscoll, Rachel Lippmann and Sarah Fentem

11 a.m. Monday, May 4

St. Louis County Executive Sam Page said he and St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson are still looking at mid-May to begin lifting coronavirus-related restrictions, even as the rest of the state begins to open up today.

“St. Louis County is not ready to do that yet,” Page said Monday during a regular media availability. “We need to see the data hospitalizations need to be coming down, hospital admissions need to be coming down, and the ICU admissions need to be coming down.”

Page said he spoke with Krewson early Monday, and the two hope to be able to set up a timeline this week for making a decision when to reopen. “But it’s too early today to pick a date and start building around that date,” he added.

The Jennings School District and CareSTL have partnered to open another COVID-19 testing site in the city of Jennings.

The new site, at Fairview Elementary School, will begin offering tests Wednesday, starting at 1 p.m. Going forward, testing will be offered from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays and from 9 a.m. to noon Wednesdays. Individuals must be screened for symptoms before being tested.

The University of Missouri-St. Louis expects to return to in-person classes in the fall.

But in an email sent Monday to faculty, students and staff, Chancellor Kristin Sobolik said the campus is adjusting its class offerings in case stay-at-home orders are implemented again in the future or social distancing guidelines remain in place. UMSL will offer more online classes, she said, as well as increasing virtual elements in in-person classes.

The first day of fall classes is scheduled for Aug. 28.

Families using the St. Louis County Library’s drive-thru meal service will be able to get free books while supplies last.

In addition to the breakfasts and lunches, families will receive a bag with three books — one for preschool children, one for elementary-age children and one for teenagers. Book distribution begins May 11.

— Rachel Lippmann

9 a.m. Monday, May 4

Good morning. Today, businesses in most of Missouri are allowed to reopen, the first step in Gov. Mike Parson’s “gradual” plan that he says will lead to economic recovery. The rules vary by county, and most of the St. Louis region will reopen at a slower pace. Restrictions on businesses and group gatherings are still in place in St. Louis and St. Louis County.

As an example, let’s use a hair salon, where stylists have to be within six feet of customers in order to do their jobs. Whether a hair salon could reopen depends on where it is located:

  • In Missouri jurisdictions where there is still a stay-at-home order in place (such as St. Louis, St. Louis County and Kansas City), hair salons cannot reopen. 
  • In Missouri counties where stay-at-home orders have expired (such as Greene County), salons can reopen starting today. 
  • In Missouri counties that never had restrictions for businesses (such as St. Charles County), salons can open. 
  • In Illinois, a stay-at-home order is still in place, and salons cannot open. 

We’ve updated our coronavirus Q&A about the new state and local rules: Coronavirus in St. Louis: Answering Your Questions About Stay-At-Home Orders. Don’t see your question answered? Ask it here.

Here are the latest coronavirus counts

  • St. Louis metro: 6,932 positive cases; 385 people have died. 
  • Missouri: 8,386 cases; 384 deaths.
  • Illinois: 61,499 cases; 2,618 deaths.

— Lindsay Toler

Read updates from last week or earlier in our blog archive

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