ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) -- St. Louis City and St. Louis County have aligned their public health orders and began easing back on some restrictions including capacity limitations and masks.
The new guidelines fall under what is called the “Reopen STL Order” and went into effect Monday, May 3 at 8 a.m. Mayor Tishaura Jones and County Executive Sam Page held a joint press conference shortly after the guidelines went into effect to make the announcement on the new health orders "that align the City and County's policies around COVID-19."
“The intent of this Reopen STL order is to recognize with the increasing rate of vaccinated St. Louis County residents, especially among the elderly, the plateauing of the rate of new infections and capacity for the hospitals to quickly adapt for a surge of new cases, that many restrictive measures can now be lifted,” the county order reads.
According to the new public health order, businesses and restaurants can increase capacity from the previous 50% to 100% as long as social distancing guidelines can still be met. In addition, bars and restaurants can now stay open until 3 a.m.
“100% is a bit misleading, there’s still six-foot table rules,” explained Adam Tilford of Mission Taco Joint. “It’ll probably get us to 75-80%.
Mission Taco Joint has locations in St. Louis City, St. Louis County, St. Charles County and Kansas City and for the last year they have been dealing with varying restrictions based on the location. Now, at least the city and county will be uniform. Tilford was one of several restaurant owners on the advisory board that helped St. Louis County shape the guidelines.
“I was on the county advisory board and they’re trying to protect the general public, I’m trying to protect my staff at this point. I’m looking at it from different eyes, what is the best thing for our staff both for their health and for their financial wellbeing and it’s a really fine line on what to do,” said Tilford.
But, while some restaurants in St. Louis City and County are ready to reopen fully, others aren’t. “It’s way too soon I think, but I understand people wanting to. They don’t want to lose their livelihoods, everything, it’s a desperate situation,” said Richard Rodriguez, the owner of Yaqui’s on Cherokee Street. He plans to keep his dining room closed, likely through summer, saying he’s worried about the rising cases among young people who are his primary customers.
Six Flags and the St. Louis Aquarium will gradually increase capacity starting this upcoming weekend. The Cardinals say they are hopeful that more fans will be welcome into Busch Stadium in June. Other venues such as Enterprise Center and Sheldon Concert Hall say they can't increase capacity just yet. Large venues can have up to 500 people with social distancing, but any number higher than that must be approved by the health department.
In addition to the easing of capacity restrictions, the new public health orders align mask requirements with the latest CDC guidelines. Masks must still be worn by vaccinated and unvaccinated people inside any business or public place, schools, gyms and outdoors when social distancing is not possible. But masks are not required by vaccinated or unvaccinated people when outdoors and socially distanced. The order also adds if someone is fully vaccinated they do not need to wear a mask when attending small outdoor gatherings or when eating and drinking at outdoor establishments.
“It’s very important to remember even under this new health order we are still requiring anyone who enters a business or establishment to stay masked to mitigate the spread of COVID as we continue to encourage vaccinations,” Mayor Jones said.
News 4 has been asking for weeks what metrics the city and county health departments were looking at to help make decisions on when to loosen restrictions. The city said they use new case numbers, new and total hospitalizations and positivity rate to decide. Currently the positivity rate in St. Louis City is 7%, their goal is 5% and there's an average of 36 new confirmed cases, that goal is fewer than 35. In St. Louis County, they have continuously said there are a number of metrics they watch. Their current positivity rate is 5.5% with an average of 141 new cases per day. They previously said that number needed to reach below 100.
During the Monday morning announcement, Page said the decision to ease restrictions was made in part because COVID-19 vaccinations are widely available and case counts have stabilized. The local leaders also said guidance from public health experts played a role in the decision.
Click here to read the order.