‘We need the state to act’: Pandemic task force leader calls for statewide mask mandate and safer at home order

By | November 14, 2020

Dr. Alex Garza opened his St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force briefing on Friday with an urgent message: “The number of people with the [COVID-19] virus is skyrocketing in our region.”

On Friday, the task force released sobering new data: New hospital admissions increased from yesterday, from 109 to 125, which set a new record. The seven-day moving average of hospital admissions also increased from yesterday, from 599 to 628, a new record. Finally, the seven-day moving average of hospitalizations increased from yesterday, from 681 to 719, a new record.

Garza stated in the briefing that the real peak of virus cases has yet to hit, and hospitals across the region could double the number of COVID-19 patients in about two weeks. At that point, Garza said, they will be overcapacity and will not be able to care for any more patients, regardless of whether they’re COVID-19 patients or others. 

“We are past the time when individual behavior alone can help address this disaster,” Garza said. “The care systems across Missouri need Governor Parson and the state to take additional action to prevent unnecessary illness and deaths. We need the state to act if we want to ensure our hospitals—both rural and urban—won’t have to turn away sick patients.” 

Garza then stated that the pandemic task force is asking the state to initiate a statewide mask mandate and safer at home order. As recently as yesterday, when he relaxed the guidelines for quarantining when children and others are exposed to the COVID-19 virus at school, Governor Mike Parson has stated that mask mandates should be issued at the local level. St. Louis city and county are under mask mandates, and the county is beginning a safer at home strategy next Tuesday.

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Garza explained why he belives a county-by-county mask mandate strategy will not work: Sick people are crossing county lines every day. “When it comes to the virus, we are all one big county now,” he said. A statewide mask mandate, Garza said, is needed to slow the virus’ spread to buy health care workers time. It would also take the pressure off business owners to mandate masks for customers and would potentially save the local economy. 

The statewide safer at home order would ask residents to stay at home unless they’re doing essential tasks, like going to work, seeking health care, or grocery shopping. 

Garza stressed that even if Missouri implements these two steps today, it will still take a few weeks to see the effects, but it will make a difference. However, the state does not, more Missourians will die.

You can watch the full briefing here: 

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