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St. Louis Avoids Spike In COVID-19 Hospitalizations, But Virus Hasn't Left

Sport Clips Haircuts in Ballwin was among the businesses in St. Louis and St. Louis County that reopened Monday. Phone lines were tied up at the salon and by the afternoon its website showed wait times longer than two hours.
File Photo | David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio
Sport Clips Haircuts in Ballwin re-opened in mid-May. The public needs to remain vigilant in fighting the spread of COVID-19, doctors said.

The St. Louis region has avoided a spike in coronavirus hospitalizations after officials lifted stay-at-home orders. But doctors say people need to continue to take precautions to limit the spread of the virus and prevent deaths.

The number of new hospital admissions due to COVID-19 has stayed relatively flat or decreased since St. Louis and St. Louis County allowed some businesses to re-open in mid-May.

But that doesn’t mean that the region is out of the woods yet, said Dr. Alexis Elward, an infectious disease specialist and chief medical officer at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. She said that the virus is still circulating, and that if people aren’t careful, another spike in cases could overwhelm hospitals.

“I do think we’ll see an increase in the number of cases,” she said. “I think what we’re all hoping for is that the rate of rise will be relatively slow and we will not have a sharp increase.”


As of June 1, there were still more than 300 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 in the region’s four largest hospital systems, according to the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force.

It will take a few weeks to see the full effects of lifting the orders on hospitalizations and case numbers, Elward said. Not everyone will immediately go out in public as soon as possible, she said. COVID-19 can incubate for weeks before someone can show symptoms.

“There’s a lag time between when people start mingling and when we start seeing transmission of the cases,” she said. “It will take us a few weeks to really understand the effects as we make changes, because the virus incubation period is two to 14 days.”

For example, a person who caught the virus at a crowded pool party on Memorial Day weekend might not be tested until June.

Wearing masks, avoiding crowds and staying six feet away from others would help keep transmission at a rate that health care systems can manage, she said. 

Those precautions are more important as more businesses re-open, she said. On Monday, County Executive Sam Page announced gyms, movie theaters and casinos could open on June 15. 

Health officials are waiting to see what will happen after thousands of people took to the streets in St. Louis and St. Louis County to protest the death of George Floyd and other black people who had been killed by police. The large gatherings could lead to a number of hospitalizations and positive cases later in June,public health experts said

St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson implored those who take part in protests to keep themselves and others safe during a Facebook Live question-and-answer session Monday.

“The protest brings up all the issues with regard to COVID and transmission of COVID,” she said. “We know black and brown communities have been more devastated by COVID than white communities, and we don’t want these protests to contribute even more to that tragedy.”

Current COVID-19 stats


Follow Sarah on Twitter: @petit_smudge

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