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First COVID-19, now flooding | River towns struggling to make ends meet

"There is a shortage and we are scrambling to find the things we need."

EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill. — COVID-19 containment efforts are about to clash with flood season. Both disasters require personal protective equipment like masks, gowns and gloves. 

"We are currently facing a threat on two fronts," Mississippi River Cities and Towns Initiative Co-Chair Mayor Bob Gallagher said. "On one front we have the on-going coronavirus pandemic, and on the other we have the accelerating spring 2020 flood season."

The Mississippi River cuts and winds through mid-America, and during flood season it can bring entire towns like Grafton and Clarksville to a stand-still. 

During an over-the-phone press conference Thursday morning, Mayor Gallagher says COVID-19 has done the same thing.

"We now have close to 400,000 coronavirus cases in the US. More than 15-thousand of those cases are along the Mississippi River," he said.

The demand for personal protective gear is high and no one town or hosipital seems to have enough. "We're no different than every one nationally," East Saint Louis Mayor Robert Eastern III said. "There is a shortage and we are scrambling to find the things we need."

And like many mayors, Eastern is having to do more with less.

"The most challenging hurtle was when they shut down all the casinos. That impacted us tremendously," Eastern said. "The Casino Queen makes up 65% to 75% of our general fund."

That means less money to buy personal protective equipment and provide for the overall health of his community. Mayor Eastern is part of a group of mayors up and down the Mississippi who are working together to gather the supplies they need to not only battle imminent flooding, but to also combat COVID-19. 

"The folks who might fight a flood would not need any protective equipment it is just a result of the virus," mayor Gallagher said.

Many flood fighting campaigns across the bi-state involve volunteers. The Mississippi River Cities and Towns Initiative is hopeful that most people bring their own cloth masks and gloves when they arrive to help sandbag and do flood prep. 

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