St. Louis County is now in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention red zone after an increase in new daily COVID cases and a high test positivity rate.
As of July 21, the county is seeing an average of 191 new COVID cases a day and the test positivity rate is 9 percent, putting the county in the CDC red zone for widespread community transmission.
County Executive Sam Page said at a media brief Wednesday these numbers can be attributed to vaccine hesitancy and hostility.
“I hate that we are where we are, at a spot where we can get out of this pandemic but not enough people are getting vaccinated to stop this latest wave,” Page said. “This is not a Chicken Little situation. The circumstances are dire and we can not let complacency or misinformation be barriers to the preventable.”
U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy said July 18 he expects counties with high infection rates, like St. Louis, to start bringing back mask mandates, and those mandates would fall within CDC guidance. The St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force issued a statement Tuesday urging everyone — vaccinated or not — to wear masks in public spaces.
“While the vaccine does protect against or mitigate symptoms, it does not prevent everyone from getting infected or passing COVID to others,” Page said.
The county is not making masks mandatory at this time, but does highly recommend it.
Page acknowledged the disparity between who is receiving the vaccine. Data from St. Louis University shows 47 percent of white children have started the vaccine process, while only 16 percent of Black children have done the same.
“The pandemic has highlighted the tremendous disparities between races that are often separated by zip codes,” Page said. “This is unacceptable and deeply troubling.”
Page said the county is making a conscious effort to increase vaccine education and vaccine access where vaccination rates are lower. The county is launching a new public education program in the next few days called Revive STL. The campaign will focus on vaccine education through advertising, and has begun online. Stories from local leaders will be prominently featured in the campaign.
According to Page, as awareness of the vaccine and the dangers of the Delta variant are more widespread, the county will have a better chance at getting to a safe place where COVID is concerned.
“Folks have to weigh the duty and obligation to their community and their friends and family to protect their loved ones from the Delta variant and make the right decision,” he said.
Page said while the vaccine won’t fully protect people from COVID or symptoms, vaccinated people are less likely to get sick and be hospitalized if they do get sick.