With nearly 1,600 deaths in St. Louis County from COVID-19 to date, and over 78,000 cumulative COVID positive cases, a vaccine couldn’t come sooner. While restrictions and mask mandates were proven to reduce infections according to a SLU study released last November, the virus is now spreading relentlessly through community transmission.
While social-distancing and mask-wearing are the most effective methods of preventing transmission of the virus until we reach herd immunity through vaccination, some County residents are encouraging risky behavior. Restrictions on youth sports imposed by County Executive Sam Page and the County Health Department were vigorously protested, even outside of Page’s home. Many of the protestors, captured in a photo by Cheyenne Boone at the St. Louis Post Dispatch, can be seen not wearing masks.
Protestors at County Executive Sam Page’s Residence.
Cheyenne Boone – St. Louis Post Dispatch (link)
Similarly, many restaurants sued the County following a ban on indoor dining, recounting the difficulties of keeping a restaurant afloat during a Pandemic and the potential for job losses in an industry already known for low-margins and high risk. Over 40 restaurants participated in the lawsuit, with a few choosing to remain open despite the order, forcing shut-downs by County Health officials.
As the few tools for combatting transmission that local governments have begun to wear off, the vaccine is becoming even more important for public health. In December, Operation Warp Speed and Missouri officials were publicly confident that the state would receive up to 350,000 doses of the remarkably effective vaccines. These vaccines will be spread across the State at many health centers that are individually responsible for getting shots into peoples’ arms.
To date, St. Louis County reported that it has received just 975 doses of the vaccine, despite the eligibility standards for Missouri being lowered to individuals 65 and older with chronic health conditions by Governor Parson. There are now over 170,000 residents of the County registered to receive the vaccine, with no shots available. While County officials expect they may receive more doses Tuesday, the number is unknown, following a pattern of Operation Warp Speed officials being unclear or downright wrong about vaccine shipments.
St. Louis County has a population of nearly 1 million, and even if each of the residents registered for a vaccine receives one in the coming months, the County will still be far off from herd immunity. Federal health officials including Dr. Fauci anticipate that it may take over 90% of the population to reach the desired level of herd immunity to bring back some semblance of normalcy and to eliminate community transmission.
Once vaccine doses do arrive in St. Louis County, Page and the County Health Department will open vaccination sites across the County, with the first in North County. COVID-19 has disproportionately impacted communities of color across the country. Page hopes to find other vaccination partners to ensure that once supply issues are resolved, they can open mass-vaccination centers and tackle healthcare disparities effectively.
The CDC reports that there are nearly 24 million confirmed cases across the country, with nearly 400,000 deaths. Missouri has reported over 436,000 cases to date, with over 6,600 deaths. Stay tuned for more coverage on COVID-19 and vaccinations here at Missouri Metro.