ST. LOUIS — Mask mandates are returning in the City of St. Louis and St. Louis County.
Mayor Tishaura Jones and County Executive Sam Page held a news conference at 9:30 a.m. Monday to take questions and give more details. You can watch the full update in the video player below.
Leaders made the announcement Friday afternoon in a joint statement as the fast-spreading delta variant is helping fuel an increase in COVID-19 cases in the area and the state. Missouri health department officials have issued six virus “hotspot” warnings, with the latest one forecasting the spread to continue from southwest and central Missouri up toward the St. Louis area.
The mask mandate begins Monday, July 26, requiring people to wear masks in indoor public places and on public transportation. It includes everyone 5 and older – including those who are vaccinated. Wearing a mask outside, especially in group settings, will be strongly encouraged.
Exceptions will be in place for people who are seated in a restaurant or bar eating and drinking, and for individuals with disabilities that prevent them from putting on or removing face coverings.
“The City and County health departments are taking this joint step to save lives, make sure hospitals can provide the care residents rely on, and protect our children so they can enjoy a full range of educational opportunities this year,” said Dr. Fredrick Echols, acting director of health for the City of St. Louis.
Cases are surging
The city and county first enacted a mask mandate on July 3, 2020. It was lifted 10 months later on May 14. While announcing the mandate was no longer in effect, Mayor Tishaura Jones and County Executive Sam Page said they were following with updated CDC guidance that was announced the day before.
However, over the last week the U.S. surgeon general, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force and the joint statement issued by the city and county all encouraged people to wear a mask regardless of vaccination status.
“Regional health departments are absolutely in support of universal mask-wearing by vaccinated and unvaccinated residents, particularly indoors. We believe it is critical for everyone’s safety,” the city and county said in a joint statement Tuesday, hinting that a new mandate is a “topic of conversation.”
Local health leaders again emphasized the best way to protect yourself and others from contracting COVID-19 is by getting vaccinated.
“So far, not enough people have been vaccinated,” said Dr. Faisal Khan, acting director of the St. Louis County Department of Public Health. “We are relentlessly committed to making vaccinations more accessible and convenient. In the meantime, we need everyone, vaccinated or not, to wear masks in crowded indoor settings. We must protect our most vulnerable residents as well as children under 12, who are not yet eligible for vaccinations.”
The latest data from the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services shows 44.8% of residents are fully vaccinated in St. Louis County. The number is lower in the city, with 35.1% of residents fully vaccinated.
Comparing the data
With a mandate returning to the city and county, 5 On Your Side pulled data from the last time a requirement was put in place to see how COVID-19 numbers compare to now.
We used data from the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force on July 3, 2020 (the date the first mask mandate was enacted), May 14, 2021 (the date the mandate was lifted) and July 23, 2021 (the date the second mask mandate was announced).
In many cases, the data shows hospital numbers from this Friday are double – or more – what they were on July 3, 2020.
New hospital admissions*
- July 3, 2020: 24
- May 14, 2021: 24
- July 23, 2021: 55
Seven-day moving average of hospital admissions
- July 3, 2020: 19
- May 14, 2021: 30
- July 23, 2021: 49
Seven-day moving average of hospitalizations
- July 3, 2020: 145
- May 14, 2021: 204
- July 23, 2021: 281
Confirmed COVID-19 hospitalizations
- July 3, 2020: 159
- May 14, 2021: 176
- July 23, 2021: 318
Confirmed COVID-19 positive patients in ICUs
- July 3, 2020: 44
- May 14, 2021: 62
- July 23, 2021: 99
Confirmed COVID-19 positive patients on ventilators
- July 3, 2020: 23
- May 14, 2021: 28
- July 23, 2021: 57
*Task force note: One hospital system is undergoing a computer system upgrade and could not report this number for Friday, July 23.
“We’ve lost more than 500 St. Louisans to COVID-19, and if our region doesn’t work together to protect one another, we could see spikes that overwhelm our hospital and public health systems,” said Dr. Echols in the Friday afternoon news release.
A St. Charles County spokesperson stated they are not planning on taking similar measures.
Jefferson County spokesperson also stated they are not currently planning on a mask mandate.
St. Louis County Councilman Tim Fitch tweeted that the council could terminate the mandate as soon as Tuesday. He says Page did not communicate his reasons for the mandate to the council.
A memo to the council chairperson added the health mandate to the council agenda Tuesday.