ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. — More restrictions could be necessary if proper COVID-19 precautions aren’t taken now, St. Louis County Executive Sam Page said Wednesday morning, urging residents to heed the advice of public health experts.
“If we don’t take aggressive action, we’ll reach a point where the consequences will be much worse,” Page said.
Page said hospital beds are filling up and there aren’t enough health care workers to provide the care that’s needed. He said hospitals are likely days – not weeks – away from reaching the point where they have more patients than they can take care of.
“We can’t contact trace our way out of this, we can’t hospital our way out of this and we can’t doctor and nurse our way out of this,” the county executive said. “There just aren’t enough resources to make up for bad decisions that people are making. Everybody needs to step back and ask themselves, ‘What is my role in stopping the spread of this virus in this community?’”
The update from Page Wednesday came a day after tighter restrictions went into place in the county, which include a ban on indoor dining and reducing business capacity from 50% to 25%.
Page explained that other areas of the country are reverting to some of the stricter regulations that were put in place back in March and April, when only essential businesses were able to be open – and the same could happen in St. Louis County.
“And that’s where we’re headed. We’re headed past bars and restaurants,” Page said. “And we are headed toward a greater shutdown unless we can stop the transmission of this virus in our community.”
The St. Louis County Department of Public Health is reporting an average 815 new COVID-19 cases a day. The average positivity rate for the past week is 21.7%.
There have been 43,581 confirmed coronavirus cases in the county since the pandemic began, according to the county's dashboard Wednesday morning. In all, 921 residents have died.
Public health experts made the decision to restrict dining at restaurants and bars, Page said.
“Based on the science of how the virus spreads, the information that they have, decided that it is important that that is part of our closures at this point in time,” Page said. “And if we don't get our hands around this, if we don't stop the spread of this virus in our community, then we will need more extensive orders than closure of bars and restaurants.”
The decision has prompted a legal challenge. A group of St. Louis County restaurants – led by the owners from Bartolino’s and backed by the Missouri Restaurant Association – is threatening to sue Page over the restrictions.
A release from the Missouri Restaurant Association said the directive was issued "without due process" or an opportunity for public comment as it said would have been the case if the matter had been brought before the county council.
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Two members of the St. Louis County Council also are taking action.
During Tuesday night's virtual county council meeting, Republicans Tim Fitch and Mark Harder introduced two bills that would allow the county council to cancel by resolution any pandemic or emergency order by the county executive or the health department.
“He has had no discussion, nor has the public health director for six months about any of these orders with the county council, the representative of the people," said Fitch.
"What he should be doing is getting buy-in from the county council, because if we heard his explanations as to why he's doing what he's doing, we may very well support them," he said.
Page said he understands the frustrations with orders.
“And it's absolutely clear that some people are deeply impacted and devastatingly, massive loss of life, people have lost their loved ones, we’re struggling to keep kids in school, businesses that are affected. This affects all of us and we are not dismissive of that. But we have to follow our public health guidance to stop the spread of this virus in the community,” Page said.
He concluded by saying action needs to be taken at the national level when it comes to restrictions and financial relief, but individuals must also do their part.
"It's time for people to make some real and serious sacrifices. And it's up to our federal government to come up with a financial package to try and help people recover. It's going to be a very difficult time in the next few months in our country and in the St. Louis region.
You can watch Sam Page's full briefing from Wednesday in the YouTube video below: