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Gateway Arch to require face masks starting Tuesday

The CDC says COVID-19 transmission in St. Louis City and County is at the "high" community level.

ST. LOUIS — The Gateway Arch will require staff and visitors to wear face masks inside buildings on park grounds starting Tuesday.

Gateway Arch National Park is following National Park Service guidelines and is requiring people to wear "high-quality" masks, regardless of vaccination status.

This change is because the community level of COVID-19 in St. Louis City and St. Louis County is "high," according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data.

Thousands of people such as St. Louis-native Mia Svenson visit the Arch every day.

“My kids have never been...we just wanted to show them...we told them a lot about it,” Svenson said. 

The return of Tuesday's mask requirement will feel familiar for many visitors.

“When a community reaches back into the high level, we are required to reinstate our mask policy," Sanfilippo said. “We do require that they use a surgical mask or a KN95 one of those types of masks.”

Pam Sanfilippo is the program manager for Museum Services and Interpretation at the Gateway Arch. She said the National Park Service closely follows CDC guidelines.

“The transmission rate has actually kind of gone up in the last few weeks and that’s what they concern is," Department of Medicine of Mercy St. Louis Chairman Dr. Farrin Manian said.

Experts such as Dr. Manian said these rates are not shocking this time of year.

“It’s not a mystery. We’re all exposed to cold weather, we congregate a lot indoors more for the holidays," he said.

It’s something visitors such as Svenson have mixed opinions on.

“It’s tough right? Because does it protect people, yes. But at the same time, are we sick of it? Also yes," she said.

Sanfilippo said they are continuing to keep an eye on rates, while understanding how some people might react.

“I know a lot of visitors aren’t carrying those with them anymore hoping and thinking we were past this," she said.

Dr. Manian wants to remind all of us that we have a long way to go before what he calls “respiratory season” is over.

He said protecting yourself from just one virus could help protect you and others from all viruses.

Surgical masks will be available to visitors for free.

Here is the full news release from the Gateway Arch National Park:

A mandatory mask mandate is effective beginning Tuesday, December 27, 2022, regardless of vaccination status. Following guidance from the National Park Service, the mandatory mask mandate is effective Tuesday, December 27, 2022 regardless of vaccination status for anyone entering federal buildings at Gateway Arch National Park. According to the CDC, St. Louis City and St. Louis County are at the High (Red) level due to increased community transmission of COVID-19. All staff and visitors must wear a well-fitting, high-quality mask, defined as "a surgical mask, procedure mask, an internationally approved device (e.g., KN95s and KF94s) or respirator." Cloth masks and similar face covers (e.g., gaiters) are not considered high-quality masks. Surgical masks are available to visitors at the Arch Information Desk free of charge for visitors.

The National Park Service (NPS) said parks with a "high" community level should wear masks inside NPS buildings. Masks are optional in places with "low" or "medium" community levels. People are welcome to wear masks in any park or park building.

The CDC looks at the number of new cases in a County relative to the number of staffed inpatient beds occupied by COVID-19 cases to determine the community level.

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