Most of us have never seen a pandemic like COVID-19 in our lifetime – and hopefully we will never see anything like it again. I know the last three months have been difficult for our community. COVID-19 has rattled our world and caused tremendous fear and anxiety. I appreciate your patience and faith in County Government as we work together to navigate this unprecedented challenge. My prayers go out to everyone who has been affected by this terrible illness, and especially to those who have lost loved ones.
To help protect our community during the pandemic, I declared a State of Emergency and issued several orders in cooperation with our Department of Public Health. These orders enacted prohibitions, provided guidance, and entrusted citizens and businesses to make smart decisions to prevent the spread. Data demonstrates that our community took these and Governor Mike Parson’s stay-at-home order to heart. This is why St. Charles County was ready to follow Phase I of the governor’s Show Me Recovery plan and order starting May 4.
I have always believed that government should avoid situations where it decides which businesses should succeed and which should fail; these decisions should be left to the people. It also is vital that government not get in the way of the essential supply chain that delivers services and products to fight the pandemic. Following are the orders I issued in March to protect residents and enable businesses to function. Please note that these orders are no longer in effect; however, I wanted to provide them here for reference:
- Executive Order 20-02 prohibited gatherings of 50 or more in a single indoor space or enclosure for recreational, social or entertainment purposes.
- Executive Order 20-03 prohibited on-premises consumption of food or drink in all places of public accommodation and required appropriate health and safety protections, including social distancing.
- Executive Order 20-04 prohibited gatherings of 10 or more in a single indoor space or enclosure for recreational, social or entertainment purposes and required appropriate health and safety protections, including social distancing.
- Executive Order 20-06 prohibited county residents from leaving their home or surrounding property except to engage in employment or activities they deem essential to their physical, mental and spiritual well-being, while ordering all businesses to follow and enforce social distancing.
The state enacted, and St. Charles County was required to follow, more restrictive orders April 6 when Governor Parson issued the Stay Home Missouri order that required residents to remain home except to access essential services, and required businesses to abide by and enforce social distancing and other precautions. This order was later extended to May 3. On May 4, the governor’s Show Me Recovery plan and order went into effect, which allowed residents to return to economic and social activities and enabled businesses to reopen by following social distancing requirements and other provisions. I issued Executive Order 20-07, which adopted the Show Me Recovery plan and order for St. Charles County and rescinded my Executive orders listed above.
How effective were the pre-May 4 orders in St. Charles County? Data indicates the orders worked. Our cumulative cases per capita remained under that of St. Louis City and St. Louis County, which enacted stricter stay-at-home orders and required non-essential businesses to close:
Cumulative Cases Per Capita: March 17 - May 25, 2020
Looking at positive case counts by date, with some spikes St. Charles County have been on a gradual decline since mid-April:
Mobility reports from Google also support the effectiveness of the orders and the willingness of residents to follow them. From March 21 to May 2 for St. Charles County, retail and recreation and workplace travel data demonstrate a 38 percent and 30 percent drop respectively, while St. Louis County saw a 41 percent and 32 percent drop in these areas. The stricter orders across the river did not dramatically influence movement:
Source: Google LLC "Google COVID-19 Community Mobility Reports."
The reduction in movement also can be seen in lower traffic volumes in major roads in St. Charles County, as well as our bridge crossings, when the orders were in effect:
This positive data doesn’t take away from the negative impact COVID-19 has and continues to have on our community. As of June 1, there are 798 total confirmed positive COVID-19 cases and 61 deaths in St. Charles County. Most residents who passed away resided in congregate living facilities, including assisted living facilities and nursing homes. The Department of Public Health issued an order in early April for these facilities to adhere to preventative guidelines to help protect this vulnerable population. The department has worked, and will continue to work, with these facilities to keep the lines of communication open, provide prevention information, and source personal protective equipment (PPE).
As we continue to move forward, contact tracing becomes more important than ever. Public Health staff have conducted contact tracing since the beginning of the pandemic to determine who those who tested positive may have had contact with and who might therefore be at higher risk of becoming infected themselves. Contact tracing calls often require answering numerous questions people have about the virus itself, symptoms, quarantining, social distancing, and more. This is a critical component for reassuring residents that everything possible is being done to make certain those infected continue to stay home and prevent further spread.
COVID-19 is the biggest challenge our county has faced. I would like to thank everyone in St. Charles County – from residents to first responders to County employees – for bravely facing it head-on. It’s a common phrase now but I believe it holds true for St. Charles County: We WILL get through this together.
If you have questions about COVID-19, visit the Department of Public Health’s website or call the Information Hotline at 636-949-1899.