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'We squandered a big opportunity': St. Louis mask mandate returns Monday as cases climb

Dr. Steven Brown supervises Mercy ICU and ventilator patients, seeing a big upswing across the state, and each of his patients is unvaccinated.

ST. LOUIS — Another busy weekend comes to a close in St. Louis' Grove neighborhood, but Kevin Szcesniak is staying home after he caught covid while trying to grab drinks last weekend.

"Wednesday was the worst of it," Szcesniak said of his experience, which he says included "all the symptoms" and an "overall just miserable feeling."

Szcesniak said he's been fully vaccinated since getting shots at the Dome in May. But now he's quarantining as his symptoms subside.

"In the back of my mind, you know I figured I was good to go with no mask you know going out, doing whatever, and that wasn't the case," Szcesniak said.

Szcesniak will still be quarantined at home when St. Louis City & County resume a mask mandate Monday, as local cases climb to levels not seen since February.

"We squandered a big opportunity to really crush coronavirus in this country," Mercy's Dr. Steven Brown said.

Brown supervises Mercy ICU and ventilator patients, seeing a big upswing across the state, and each of his patients is unvaccinated.

"I've seen statistics that 99.5% of the ventilated patients are unvaccinated. In my personal experience, I haven't seen those 1-in-200 yet that have been vaccinated. All of my patients -- 100% on ventilators -- have never been vaccinated," Brown said. "That's one of the key messages: If you get a breakthrough because you've been vaccinated, you're not going to wind up on a ventilator. You're not going to wind up in the intensive care unit."

Browns said he believes the CDC mask policy change had good intentions but the repercussions are undeniable.

"Cities like Oklahoma City are now seeing an overflow of patients who are coming to them from Missouri and from Arkansas because they have no beds available in adjacent counties," he said of the spike in Southwest Missouri.

Brown said it's likely Szcesniak's vaccine saved him from some more severe symptoms, and Szcesniak said he'll follow the mask mandate once he's able to leave his home again.

"The more people that are out there being safe, then the better, in my opinion," Szcesniak said.