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St. Louis Bans Gatherings Of More Than 1,000 To Contain Coronavirus

St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson speaks about the city's response to COVID-19 during a news conference at City Hall on Thursday afternoon, March 12, 2020.
File photo I Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio
St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson speaks about the city's response to COVID-19 during a news conference at City Hall on Thursday afternoon.

St. Louis is banning organized gatherings of more than 1,000 people to help contain the coronavirus outbreak. 

The announcement from city officials Thursday afternoon came as dozens of local businesses, sports teams and arts venues announcedthey were limiting attendance ortemporarily shutting down. Mayor Lyda Krewson said that the decision was difficult but that the public health benefit was worth the economic cost.

“As devastating as it is for businesses and employees who work at those businesses, it would be very, very devastating to have many, many cases of COVID-19,” Krewson said, referring to the disease spread by the virus.

Limiting social gatherings – part of what public health professionals call “social distancing” – is how cities can slow the rapid spread of a contagious disease by limiting potential exposure to people who are sick, said St. Louis Health Director Fred Echols. 

“Oftentimes when you have a case of the flu or common cold, because of the way it’s transmitted, you’re likely to have a larger outbreak, a larger cluster of individuals that become infected" when large groups get together, Echols said. “To prevent that from happening in St. Louis, this measure is absolutely necessary.”

Just one person who is mildly sick in a large group of people could spread it throughout the group. Even if those people are healthy, they could spread the virus to those who are at risk of becoming dangerously sick, such as those who are chronically ill or the elderly.

Mildly ill people could overload hospitals and clinics and keep those who are life-threateningly sick from getting the care they need.

The ban won’t apply to churches, schools or businesses that have 1,000 people. It will apply to organized gatherings such as concerts, sporting events, conventions or festivals, Krewson said. 

“The economic impact is important, but we’re about saving lives, preventing the community from becoming infected," Echols said. “That’s our mission, that’s our goal.”

Krewson said those who are able should generously tip hourly workers to help them through what will be an economically challenging season. 

Shortly after the city officials announced the ban on gatherings, Gov. Mike Parson announced the second confirmed case of COVID-19 in Missouri, in Greene County. The first confirmed case was a St. Louis County woman who is under quarantine in her home. 

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