This article is 2 years old. It was published on March 16, 2021.
Mayor Lyda Krewson today, on the one-year anniversary of the City's first presumptive positive case of COVID-19, highlighted her ongoing efforts to slow the spread of the virus, protect more than 300,000 residents, and lay the foundation for a robust economic recovery that leaves no one behind.
“Without question, the pandemic presented new and unexpected challenges that tested all of us in different ways. We also lost more than 430 of our fellow St. Louisans whose memories should never be forgotten,” said Mayor Krewson. “For more than a year, we've worked extremely hard every day to follow the data and implement a balanced response. Thank you to everyone on the front lines, including doctors, health care and essential workers, and first responders, who risked their lives to keep us all safe. Our efforts would not have been possible without them or the good people and businesses of St. Louis who listened to the science and made the hard decisions required by this unprecedented time in our history.”
Mayor Krewson and her senior advisors were first briefed on the developing COVID-19 situation around the world by Dr. Fredrick Echols, Acting Director of the City of St. Louis Department of Health, in January 2020.
In the weeks immediately following, Mayor Krewson and Dr. Echols convened a coalition of public health partners, Cabinet members, and leaders across City government to declare a state of emergency and initiate a historic response to mitigate exposure, protect vulnerable populations, schools, and businesses, and save lives. This was all accomplished while also protecting City workers and safely continuing to provide essential services without any significant interruption.
Under the leadership of Mayor Krewson and Dr. Echols, the City acted fast to implement many proactive measures to prepare for and respond to the pandemic, including, but not limited to:
- Activating the Emergency Operations Center to coordinate multi-jurisdictional resources
- Issuing 16 emergency public health orders, including one of the only Stay at Home orders and mandatory face mask mandates in the State of Missouri, to maximize the number of people and businesses working together to limit the spread of the virus
- Purchasing more than 1.9 million face masks, thousands of gallons of hand sanitizer, and other essential PPE for community-focused distribution in churches, small businesses, affordable housing complexes, and senior and long-term care facilities
- Partnering with federally qualified health centers in disproportionately affected areas, hospitals, and other medical providers and community partners to test nearly 300,000 people as the first local jurisdiction without any criteria for COVID-19 testing
- Signing and coordinating a historic $64 million federal funding package, including $35 million in CARES Act funding, to address the health, humanitarian, and socioeconomic impacts of the pandemic, including:
- Investing $20 million in the Department of Human Services and related agencies to address homeless prevention, street outreach, eviction mediation, etc.
- Providing $16 million to the Community Development Administration to address food insecurity, affordable housing, healthcare services, etc.
- Investing more than $7 million in rental and mortgage relief to thousands of tenants and property owners
- Supporting nearly 1,100 local small businesses with $5.3 million in grant funding through St. Louis Development Corporation
- Helping seniors and vulnerable families keep their utilities on with $3.5 million in assistance to Heat Up/Cool Down St. Louis
- Signing a second multimillion dollar federal funding package to address the continued impacts of the pandemic on the most vulnerable St. Louisans, including:
- Up to $75 million in possible coronavirus-related emergency health funds
- Approximately $9 million in additional emergency rental and housing assistance
- $4 million in funds for delayed water and wastewater payments for low-income households
- Working with St. Louis Public Schools and other academic partners to provide more than 1.2 million free meals to children
- Coordinating with the 22nd Judicial Circuit Court and Sheriff's Office to maintain a moratorium on evictions related to COVID-19 economic hardship
- Directing the Water Division to stop all water shut offs for non-payment
- Bringing approximately 500 new emergency shelter and winter overflow beds online for members of the unhoused community
- Launching new communication tools and online data portals to provide accessible pandemic response updates in real-time, promote government transparency, and connect people with various resources
- Establishing new outdoor dining permits through the Office of Special Events to help local restaurants safely expand their capacity and accommodate curbside service
The City received confirmation of its first presumptive positive case of COVID-19 on March 16, 2020. In more recent weeks, there has been significant and sustained reductions in the level of viral activity in the community. This is reflected in several key seven-day COVID-19 metrics, including the City's average number of new cases (20) and average positivity rate (4%) and regionally, new hospitalizations (36) and total hospitalizations (229).
“Over the course of the pandemic, the City has consistently maintained some of the lowest COVID-19 numbers in the entire St. Louis region,” said Dr. Echols. “That doesn't mean we're out of the woods, but it is encouraging to see this trend continuing. I believe it's a result of our data-driven, balanced approach and compliance with our health orders by a vast majority of St. Louisans who have taken this seriously from the start. We thank you for your sacrifices and your continued support.”
One year later, there are also gradual signs of improvement when it comes to the availability of approved COVID-19 vaccines and the efficiency of distribution. At the persistent urging of Mayor Krewson and other Missouri elected leaders, the state is beginning to allocate more vaccine to urban areas, including the City of St. Louis. Mayor Krewson and her staff have also been successful in bringing online additional vaccination locations, such as retail pharmacies like CVS and Walgreens, and will continue working expeditiously to expand the City's vaccination capacity.
According to the Missouri Department of Health and Human Services, 12.5% of the City's population have initiated vaccination. This means more than 37,440 first doses have been administered. More than 58,550 total doses have been administered to City residents thus far.
The City's Department of Health continues to follow the state's tiered eligibility criteria to vaccinate those most at risk of contracting COVID-19. Through more than a dozen mass vaccination events held in North and South St. Louis and the central corridor, the City has been able to successfully vaccinate more than 10,000 first responders and law enforcement, long-term care facility staff and residents, healthcare workers, school nurses, mental and behavioral health providers, emergency management, public works personnel, seniors, and adults with qualifying underlying health conditions.
These efforts are ongoing as the City also works with local community partners and agencies to plan for the vaccinations of hard-to-reach populations, including homebound residents, and additional eligible individuals, such as teachers, childcare workers, and other essential workers.
“I know a lot of people are out of patience, but the availability of vaccine is getting better every day. We are not going to let the City of St. Louis become a vaccine desert,” said Dr. Echols. “Our priority continues to be to get as much vaccine as possible to more places that people trust in their communities. This allows us to both equitably and strategically deploy vaccine to areas with the most need. I encourage everyone to roll up their sleeve when it's their turn. These vaccines are safe and effective, and we extend our deepest gratitude to all the scientists, researchers, and clinical trial participants who helped us reach this critical turning point.”
As the City's pandemic response continues to move in the right direction, Mayor Krewson also remains intently focused on a safe, responsible, and gradual reopening and economic recovery that meets the continued and immediate health, humanitarian, and socioeconomic needs of all St. Louisans.
Just like they've done since the start of the pandemic, the Mayor's Office and the City's Department of Health are continuing to collaborate with industry partners, business leaders, and key stakeholders to review, amend, and approve thoughtful and informed updated reopening and operational guidance and infection control plans for retail, construction, offices, large venues, bars/restaurants, hotels, cultural institutions, attractions and destinations, schools and childcare centers, youth and group sports, summer camps, personal services, weddings and other religious ceremonies and traditions, community events, etc.
Mayor Krewson is also developing a key framework for potential areas of investment following President Biden's signing of the American Rescue Plan that will provide approximately $500 million in direct financial assistance to the City of St. Louis to urgently address the immediate and continued impacts of the pandemic on residents, businesses, and local government, including, but not limited to: affordable housing, small business assistance, workforce development and jobs training, rental and mortgage assistance, homeless services, etc.
“We must be cautious about how we move forward and consider relaxing the public health mitigation strategies, recognizing we're still learning about the possible impacts of multiple COVID-19 variants,” said Mayor Krewson. “At the same time, people and businesses are still hurting. It's imperative that we get this transformative federal relief into the hands of those in need. The more we can get people vaccinated and help them recover the stronger we'll all be and the sooner we can come out stronger on the other side. I'm incredibly optimistic about our ability to do just that.”
Prior to COVID-19, the City of St. Louis was having its strongest economic year on record. There was close to $10 billion in investment either recently completed, under construction, or planned, including the new NGA headquarters in North St. Louis and the new MLS campus in Downtown West. Fortunately, much, if not all, of that construction momentum continued during the pandemic. Last year marked only the second time that the City logged more than $1 billion in the value of total building permits for a single year (the first time was in 2018).
St. Louisans are encouraged to visit the City's COVID-19 website to view the latest updates, find out when they may be eligible for the vaccine, and to sign up to receive notifications about future vaccination opportunities.