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‘We need a constant stream of tests’ | St. Louis County Executive reiterates importance of COVID-19 testing

The county plans to hire 100 additional people to help with contact tracing in addition to the 70 people who are already working

ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. — More than 100 St. Louis County residents have lost their lives due to COVID-19, there are more than 2,000 confirmed cases of the virus in the county and nearly 1,000 people have recovered from it. 

St. Louis County Executive Sam Page thanked county residents for their actions the last couple of months as he said they have not been easy. 

Page held one of his regularly scheduled briefings Friday morning. He plans to hold the briefings every Monday, Wednesday and Friday for as long as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.

“We’re all frustrated that the virus is still here, we’re all anxious to get back to work and get our businesses open,” Page said. 

Amid the frustrations, Page reiterated that the community should be encouraged by how people are abiding by the social distancing guidelines. 

“Everyone in St. Louis County is appreciating and respecting our social distancing guidelines, people wearing a mask, people are staying home, and people are doing a great job at keeping the infection numbers down as much as possible,” he said. “By staying home we’ve helped flattened the curve and saved lives but at the same time I know everyone has put up with a lot, let’s hang in there – we can’t let up yet.” 

Page said the council will vote on Tuesday to allow access to the CARES Act federal grant. The county has received nearly $174 million from the grant. 

“The funds will be used to increase testing capacity, to understand the depth of this virus in our community and to provide vital health services and help us get our economy moving again,” Page said.

On Thursday, the county launched its online transparency portal where the public can see how the money is being spent.

Click here for the portal 

The county plans to hire 100 additional people to help with contact tracing in addition to the 70 people who are already working. Page said he expects that the positions will last at least for the next year.

Page emphasized the need for more COVID-19 testing supplies. He said a release is expected later on Friday for the bid to purchase tests. The tests can be purchased once the federal funds are released to the county. 

He said the county needs need tens of thousands of tests. 

“We need a constant stream of tests – for the next year, probably the next 2 years until an immunization is easily available,” he said. 

Right now, Page said he believes a few hundred tests are done per day. 

“We know when we relax our social distancing, we will see the infection numbers tick up and we need quick access to test and need people to know within a few hours if they’re positive,” he said.

Starting on April 27, people in the county will be able to get tested at its north county or south county location. Individuals must register through the county and up to 25 people per day will be able to be tested. Page said its public health services usually provide care to up to 35,000 people, most of which are uninsured.

Earlier this week, Page signed an official extension of the county’s stay-at-home order. The initial order was set to expire on April 22. The new order does not have an official end date.

Page said he hopes to have some sort of guidance of what it might look like when we could reopen.

Many people have expressed their frustrations on social media with county parks being closed. Page said he hopes to have an announcement within the next week or so regarding parks. 

“We’ve been looking at our plans to limit crowding at our parks and to limit our trails to one-way traffic,” he said. “We do have to understand that this virus is deadly and crowding whether inside or outside causes the virus to spread.” 

“We know the virus can spread on equipment and we have to be very sensitive to that, but we do believe we will have a plan that will allow us to safely use our parks,” Page added. 


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