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'Stay calm. The city is prepared for this' | St. Louis leaders update public on plans to combat spread of COVID-19

Three people have been tested, but there there are no confirmed cases of coronavirus in the city

ST. LOUIS — City leaders gathered Thursday to update the public on their efforts to combat the spread of COVID-19.

Public Health Director Dr. Fred Echols said three people have been tested, but there there are no confirmed cases of coronavirus in the city.

"It’s not a question of if, it’s when we’ll have a case," he said.

Echols also announced the city will prohibit events or gatherings of 1,000 people or more, with the exception of religious gatherings and school attendance.

Right now, there are no plans to amend or extend spring break for Saint Louis Public Schools, which is scheduled to begin March 16. 

“Should spring break be extended, there will be accommodations in terms of feeding children and keeping them safe,” said Public Safety Director Jimmie Edwards.

Presiding Judge Rex Burlison said there are changes to the city's courts and detention centers. At the city jails, visiting days have been reduced to two days a week, instead of seven. 

"For jurors, it will be business as usual for now, but they will give jurors space," Burlison said. Jurors will be seated six feet away from each other.

Attorneys have also been asked to report whether their clients have cold- or flu-like symptoms, Burlison said. 

St. Louis City Fire Chief Dennis Jenkerson said his department is changing protocol when responding to sick calls. Firefighters and paramedics will use extra caution when approaching patients with cold or flu-like symptoms.

"Stay calm," Jenkerson said. "The city is prepared for this. We started active surveillance on Jan. 24 when we received the calls for people dealing with it."

Mayor Lyda Krewson announced she asked the water department to not shut off service to residents until at least May 15, so people may continue to practice good hygiene. 

"This is a very challenging situation and a very fluid situation," Krewson said. "What we know now … is different what we knew, three or five or seven days ago."

She added the decision to cancel public gatherings, like the St. Patrick's Day parade, was difficult.

RELATED: Dogtown joins others in postponing St. Patrick’s Day events amid coronavirus concerns

"This is a pretty devastating situation for many of our businesses and many of our workers," Krewson said. "We know the impact it has for people who do not get the hours to go to work."

Krewson said traffic at St. Louis Lambert International Airport is down about 30% since the coronavirus outbreak and that has a "ripple effect" on small and large businesses.

"Double tip your server if you could possibly," she said.

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