St. Louis County and the city of St. Louis are open again without any capacity restrictions for the first time in more than a year, although restrictions such as masks and social distancing continue.
Under a joint city-county plan called “Reopen STL,” the new restrictions that went into effect immediately Monday will match across city and county lines for the first time. Official capacity restrictions are back up to 100 percent for the first time since March 2020, after being set at either 25 or 50 percent since the end of the stay-at-home order a year ago. But since masks and social distancing are still required inside businesses, capacity will vary on a case-by-case basis.
Both County Executive Sam Page and new St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones said, speaking at the county Government Center in Clayton, that the new public-health orders are based on science and the recommendations of both cities’ health departments.
But one of the drivers behind the higher capacity limits is widespread availability of vaccines: Jones pointed out that the federal government is giving out free Pfizer shots at The Dome at America’s Center in downtown St. Louis, with free parking. Some county vaccination sites are open for walk-ins too.
“This is a new normal, not a return to normal,” said Jones. “Please stay masked, continue to wash your hands and stay socially distant.”
The county’s restrictions, including the latest move to lift them, are “very thoughtful, cautious and science-based measures to protect the health and safety of everyone,” Page said.
Events with more than 500 people will need approval from that jurisdiction’s health department, but the announcement means that St. Louis Cardinals games could potentially return to 100-percent capacity in open-air Busch Stadium, where capacity has been 25 percent with masks required.
The curfew on bars and restaurants, which had been midnight for the last several weeks, was also lifted and moved back to 3 a.m.
The announcement came despite the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force saying last week that now was still a time to be cautious and not return to normal. At the same time, Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt had written a letter to Page threatening a lawsuit if restrictions were not lifted.
“The Pandemic Task Force did say it’s too soon to return to normal, and today we’re not returning to normal — we still have social distancing requirements, face mask requirement, but what we’re doing is expanding capacity restrictions in our businesses and relaxing mask mandates outdoors consistent with the (Centers for Disease Control) guidance and essentially consistent with the Pandemic Task Force,” Page said. “So we’re not back to normal, we’re on the path back to normal and we’re making this step forward today because of the decisions that our community has made because of our compliance with previous health orders and wide vaccine availability in our community.”