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St. Louis Region Has 'One Last Chance' To Curb Coronavirus Before Restrictions Return

St. Louis County Executive Sam Page speaks said Monday  at a press conference on Nov. 11, 2020. Page says the rising number of coronavirus cases in the region is unsustainable and will soon overwhelm hospitals.
Jason Rosenbaum / St. Louis Public Radio
St. Louis County Executive Sam Page said Monday that the rising number of coronavirus cases in the region is unsustainable and will soon overwhelm hospitals.

The St. Louis region could see renewed government restrictions to stop the spread of the coronavirus if the number of new cases doesn’t go down within a week, St. Louis and St. Louis County leaders said Monday.

The number of people testing positive is increasing in the bistate area. The metro area has seen about 1,412 new positive cases per day over the last week. That's up 57.8% over last week, according to data gathered by the New York Times.

That puts the region at a dangerous crossroads, St. Louis County Executive Sam Page told reporters Monday.

“I want to be clear with everyone: If this doesn’t change a week or two from now, and we’re standing here with the same rate of increase, then we will have to be considering more restrictions,” he said. “We have one last chance to slow the cases of COVID-19 in our community before we are forced to take action.”

Page did not offer specifics on potential restrictions but said he is consulting with public health officials and members of the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force to determine which measures would be most effective.

St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson said she and Page are discussing a unified strategy for restrictions.

“I don’t want to do it, but I have to shoot straight with you here,” she said. “We cannot continue to sustain high numbers of new cases, high numbers of new hospitalizations, and there’s only one way to do it. We can’t be gallivanting around.”

Krewson was similarly vague in what restrictions could look likef but said she was considering “further restrictions on businesses that can be open.”

Earlier in the pandemic, St. Louis and St. Louis County officials shut down nonessential businesses, banned indoor dining and limited gatherings to fewer than 10 people.

Unlike over the summer, when local officials encouraged people to socialize outdoors with masks on, Krewson and Page say people should avoid nonessential socialization at all, with the exception of a handful of trusted friends who make up a “quarantine pod.”

“We clearly can’t keep doing the same thing we’ve been doing and expect anything to change,” Page said.

However, Department of Health and Senior Services Director Randall Williams has said the virus is largely spreading at small, private gatherings, which would be nearly impossible for local governments to regulate.

Still, restrictions can be a powerful signal, said Dr. Elvin Geng, an epidemiologist at Washington University.

“I think that now, [coronavirus spread] really is being driven right by our collective behaviors, even more so than it was before,” he said. Renewed restrictions “coincide with a shift in our curve, because it sends a message to the public, which is, ‘OK, it’s time to get serious now.’”

The virus is spreading throughout the community unchecked, Geng said.

“I think the cat is out of the bag, I think that how far it gets out of the bag is maybe the question at hand,” he said.

Hospital officials said Monday that the St. Louis metro area has reached its highest ever hospital census during the pandemic, with an average of 82 new coronavirus patients being admitted to the region’s hospitals each day.

Follow Sarah on Twitter: @petit_smudge

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

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