A St. Louis city advisory board has recommended that all businesses in the city reduce their capacity to 25 percent.
The city currently mandates bars, restaurants and nightclubs limit their capacity to 50 percent of their permitted occupancy and to close by 11 p.m.
“This has not been easy, but hard decisions have to be made,” said Dr. Will Ross, who chairs the Joint Boards of Health and Hospitals, which advises the city’s health director.
The board held an emergency meeting this morning to discuss further health orders to address the rising number of COVID-19 cases and deaths.
One in five city residents will test positive of COVID-19, Ross said, and that positivity rate has increased significantly in recent weeks.
Dr. Fred Echols, the city’s acting health director, pushed back against additional restrictions on businesses, saying that gatherings would end up occurring “underground.”
However, Dr. Mati Hlatshwayo Davis, a clinical instructor in infectious diseases at Washington University School of Medicine, said winter will force more people to eat indoors, and the restaurants will not be able to “adequately” mitigate risks.
The board should be having discussions about further restrictions to aid the healthcare workers who are struggling in the region’s overwhelmed hospitals, Davis said, but at a minimum the city should decrease capacity.
“The numbers are so extreme that we have to adopt difficult measures,” Davis said. “It is in response to where we are right now.”
On Wednesday, the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force reported a new record for the 7-day moving average of hospitalizations — 925. Yet, this doesn’t take into account the surge that will inevitably occur 10 days after Thanksgiving, Ross said.
Board member Lisa Richter floated the idea of closing indoor dining to be consistent with St. Louis County, but Echols said that the city’s challenge is with small gatherings and not restaurants.
While St. Louis County put a pause on all indoor dining in mid-November, the city’s mayor has not put any additional restrictions on businesses since September. County Executive Sam Page is currently facing lawsuits from restaurant owners, but he has stood firm behind the order.
“We are here in part because of virus fatigue,” Page said. “People tell me they are done with this virus but this virus is not done with us.”
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