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St. Louis reinstating mask mandate for indoor public places

St. Louis city and county will reinstate mask mandates for indoor public places as well as public transportation Monday. 

The mandate includes all individuals over the age of 5 years old, even those who have been vaccinated against COVID-19. Face coverings while outdoors will be encouraged, the city and county said in a joint press release Friday. 

More than 1,000 cases have been reported in St. Louis County in the past seven days, including two deaths, according to the state’s data. In the city, 389 new cases have been reported in the past week with no deaths. 

“We’ve lost more than 500 St. Louisans to COVID-19, and if our region doesn’t work together to protect one another, we could see spikes that overwhelm our hospital and public health systems,” Dr. Fredrick Echols, acting director of health for the city of St. Louis, said in a statement. “The city and county health departments are taking this joint step to save lives, make sure hospitals can provide the care residents rely on, and protect our children so they can enjoy a full range of educational opportunities this year.” 

Nearly 45 percent of individuals in St. Louis County have completed vaccination. In the city, that number is nearly 10 percent lower. 

“Vaccinations are the best way to stop the fast-spreading delta variant of COVID-19, but so far, not enough people have been vaccinated,” Dr. Faisal Khan, acting director of the St. Louis County Department of Public Health, said. 

Missouri has been the subject of national attention as the number of delta variant cases continues to rise. Earlier this week, Jeff Zients, the White House COVID-19 coordinator, said Missouri, Florida, and Texas make up 40 percent of current coronavirus cases nationwide. 

Missouri health officials unveiled two vaccine incentive programs this week, including one giving 900 people the chance to win cash or prizes amounting to $10,000 over the next three months. In less than 24 hours, more than 100,000 people registered for the program. 

Robert Knodell, Missouri’s acting health director, vented his frustrations on Twitter Thursday evening. 

“All this rhetoric against COVID vaccines is a bunch of baloney. You don’t have to trust me … consult your family physician or pharmacist. If you don’t want to protect yourself, do it to protect your family, neighbors, or strangers who may have vulnerabilities putting them at grave risk you may not even know about,” Knodell said. “We all care about and look after one another. Let’s stop this virus in its tracks, once and for good.”

More than 10,600 new COVID-19 cases have been reported in Missouri within the last week, with 32 deaths. More than 1,600 people are hospitalized, including 492 in the ICU and 218 on ventilators. About 50 percent of adults in Missouri have completed vaccination. 

St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones and St. Louis County Executive Sam Page will address the reinstated mask mandate during a press conference Monday morning.