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‘We can’t responsibly wait any longer’ | St. Louis County’s new COVID-19 restrictions

Three new health orders will start Tuesday. Page said these changes are needed now to help health care workers and hospitals – and keep residents from getting sick

ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. — A surge in COVID-19 cases has led to a tightening of restrictions in St. Louis County.

County Executive Sam Page announced three new public health orders Friday morning meant to help slow the spread of the virus and free up room in local hospitals.

He described COVID-19 as raging in the St. Louis County community.

The three new orders are:

  • Safer at home
  • Additional face mask mandates
  • New isolation and quarantine guidelines

Page said St. Louis County has to make these changes now to help health care workers and hospitals – and keep residents from getting sick.

“Our hospitals are nearly full, frontline workers are worn out. We can’t responsibly wait any longer to get the virus in check,” Page said Friday morning. “These steps will help.”

The new orders go into effect at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday.

Safer at home

County residents are asked to stay at home and only go out for essential business and necessities. Essential reasons to leave the house include going to get food or groceries, going to work, getting medical care, going to places of worship and visiting others in their bubble.

Social bubbles should be limited to 10 people, including friends and family. All social gatherings also are limited to 10 people.

Indoor dining will be banned, but restaurants and bars can continue to offer patio seating, curbside and takeout.

All businesses are limited to 25% capacity, which is a reduction again from the 50% that was allowed.

Despite the restrictions, Page encouraged residents to continue supporting local small businesses, especially restaurants and bars.

"Please tip them generously. These are the folks that are hustling to make sure that you have to-go meals that you can enjoy in your home," he said.

Full details about the "Safer at Home" order can be found on the St. Louis County Department of Public Health website.

Face mask changes

Face masks must be worn by everyone 6 years old and older when they leave their house. This includes when visiting someone else’s house. An exception can be made while eating or drinking as long as social distancing is being practiced.

Masks must be worn at gyms while working out and at sports settings, except while actively playing.

Page said while 3-5-year-olds aren’t required to wear masks, it is strongly encouraged.

Exceptions to the mask rule continue to include those with medical conditions that prevent them from wearing a mask.

Full details about the new mask order can be found on the St. Louis County Department of Public Health website.

Isolation and quarantine orders

Page said the number of new cases is so extreme, that contact tracers and the county health department can’t keep up with the number of people testing positive and all of the people who’ve been exposed.

The health department is reaching out to as many people as possible, “but we won’t be able to get to everyone,” Page said.

With this in mind, the county is asking people to take more personal responsibility when it comes to isolating, quarantining and contacting those who might have been exposed to the virus.

Page laid out the following new guidelines:

  • If you test positive: Isolate for 10 days from the point of time you either tested positive or had symptoms. Tell everyone you had close contact with so they can quarantine for 14 days. Close contact includes anyone you were within 6 feet of for 15 minutes or more over a 24 hour period – even if you were both wearing a mask. Do not wait for contact tracers to reach out to your close contacts.
  • If you were exposed: If someone calls to tell you they tested positive and you are considered a close contact, you’re asked to quarantine for 14 days after the last contact with the patient. Do not wait for a contact tracer to call you. If you start developing symptoms, remain quarantined and notify anyone you might have had close contact with.

Page said the health department will no longer be providing a “release from quarantine/isolation” letter. Primary care physicians will be able to do this instead.

Full details about the new quarantine and isolation order can be found on the St. Louis County Department of Public Health website.

You can watch Sam Page's full briefing in the video player below:

“This won’t be easy and this won’t be fun,” Page said. “We all have to make sacrifices together to get the virus under control.”

The county executive acknowledged this will be especially difficult with the holiday right around the corner.

“We strongly discourage large, traditional family gatherings,” he said, adding that any gathering should be limited to those in your own household or the 10 or fewer people in your social bubble.

The county’s COVID-19 numbers haven’t been updated yet Friday morning. The latest numbers show 38,620 total confirmed cases in the county with an average number of 643 new cases diagnosed every day.

Page said Thursday alone the county reported more than 900 additional cases.

Credit: KSDK
St. Louis County COVID-19 numbers as of Thursday, Nov. 12