In light of recently updated Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance, along with new confirmed cases, new COVID-19 hospitalizations, and the percent positivity rate in the St. Louis region all continuing to trend downward, the Department of Health will not request from the Board of Aldermen authorization to renew the city’s mask mandate, which requires individuals to wear masks indoors to slow the spread of COVID-19. The current order expires on March 5 at 11:59 p.m. The Department continues to recommend St. Louisans, especially in high risk groups such as the elderly, immunocompromised, and more, wear masks in public spaces to protect themselves and their communities from COVID-19.
Throughout the pandemic the Department of Health has used a data-driven approach to make policy decisions relating to COVID-19 mitigation strategies. The data notes that as of 3/1/22 the seven day average of new confirmed COVID-19 cases was 18 per day – down from a peak of 517, with the goal of 35 or fewer cases. New daily hospitalizations were at 38 - down from a peak of 227 hospitalizations per day, with a goal set at 40 or fewer. The percent positivity rate was at 4.6%, down from a peak of 35.7%, with the goal being 5% or smaller. The Department of Health will continue to monitor these key metrics moving forward and will adapt policy to continue to keep our region protected from COVID-19.
“I understand that transitions are challenging, especially in a pandemic where they are often sudden,” said Dr. Mati Hlatshwayo Davis, Director of Health for the City of St. Louis. “The priority must still be a community harm reduction approach because we are still not out of the woods.”
“The policies we have implemented - from masking to a vaccine and testing requirement for city workers - has helped save lives in our city,” said Mayor Tishaura O. Jones. “St. Louisans worked together to move key metrics, like hospitalization rates and new case counts, in the right direction, but we have to keep protecting each other; testing, handwashing, staying home when sick, as well as vaccination and boosting remain critical tools to help to protect our families and communities. I encourage St. Louisans to respect the personal choice of those who continue wearing masks in public spaces, and if you have not yet been vaccinated or boosted, make sure you do so as soon as you can.”
The Department is highly recommending members of the population continue to wear masks indoors especially if in high risk groups, such as the elderly, individuals in congregate living facilities, people with pre-existing medical conditions, the immunocompromised, children below the age of 5 that are not eligible for vaccination, and children who are not eligible for boosters. The Department of Health is working with schools to put safety plans in place that may require the wearing of masks in certain situations. City Hall and city offices will continue to require employees and visitors to these locations to wear masks in indoor common areas and spaces.
The CDC’s recently updated COVID-19 guidance includes a Community Level System (CLS) to measure the impact of COVID-19 illness on health and healthcare systems. The CLS establishes low, medium, and high community levels, and based on the indicators established by the CDC the City of St. Louis currently falls within the Low level. The Department of Health will be working with the community to implement the CDC’s recommended prevention strategies including:
- Protecting people at high risk for severe illness or death by ensuring equitable access to vaccination, testing, treatment, support services, and information
- Implementing screening testing or other testing strategies for people who are exposed to COVID-19 in workplaces, schools, or other community settings as appropriate
- Implementing enhanced prevention measures in high-risk congregate settings (see guidance for correctional facilities and homeless shelters)
- Distributing and administering vaccines to achieve high community vaccination coverage and ensure health equity
- Maintaining improved ventilation in public indoor spaces
- Ensuring access to testing, including through point-of-care and at-home tests for all people
- Communicating with organizations and places that serve people who are immunocompromised or at high risk for severe disease to ensure they know how to get rapid testing
- Ensuring access and equity in vaccination, testing, treatment, community outreach, support services for disproportionately affected populations
- Continuing to properly wash hands and be socially distanced where possible