Kansas City-area officials announce new restrictions
Leaders of the Kansas City area announced Monday new restrictions aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus, days after St. Louis County announced similar new measures.
All indoor gatherings will be limited to no more than 10 people effective Friday in Kansas City, Missouri, Democratic Mayor Quinton Lucas. Restaurants and bars must close by 10 p.m. and limit occupancy to 50% capacity. Masks must be worn at all indoor spaces and at outdoor spaces where social distancing isn’t possible.
“We’re here because we have reached, I think, our greatest crisis moment in Kansas City’s response to COVID-19,” Lucas said at a news conference.
Separately, neighboring Kansas City, Kansas, along with Jackson County in Missouri and Wyandotte County in Kansas jointly announced similar measures.
Restrictions announced last week in St. Louis County go into effect Tuesday. For four weeks, residents are being told to stay home except to work, go to school, shop, exercise or get medical care. Residents are advised to establish social groups of 10 or fewer relatives and/or friends. In-person service at bars and restaurants will be shut down.
Meanwhile, the city of St. Louis on Saturday began prohibiting gatherings of more than 10 people. The order placed no new restrictions on in-person dining or additional capacity limits.
The restrictions in the state’s two urban areas come as confirmed cases continue to rise significantly. Perhaps more concerning is the fast rise in hospitalizations, which now stands at 2,525, according to the state health department’s website. The data also shows intensive care units are dangerously full, with just 2% capacity in the northeast part of the state, 13% capacity in the northwest and 15% capacity in Kansas City.
“It’s very simple. Every wedding, every Thanksgiving, every large event is a potential for large community spread,” Lucas said. “We have seen it time and again.”
The situation is so dire that hospital leaders in places ranging from the big cities to rural areas have urged Republican Gov. Mike Parson to issue a statewide mask mandate. The Missouri Hospital Association joined the call, too.
“The wolf is at the door,” Herb Kuhn, the association’s president and CEO, wrote in a letter to Parson dated Friday. “Missouri’s hospitals urge you to issue a statewide masking mandate. A mask mandate may be unappealing to some, but it has become necessary."
Parson has frequently urged Missourians to take precautions, including wearing masks, but has repeatedly declined to require it.
Two major St. Louis health care providers announced Sunday that some elective surgeries will be suspended for eight weeks.
“We must take this drastic measure both to increase our hospital capacity and ensure we have the staff available to continue providing exceptional care for our patients,” according to a joint statement from BJC HealthCare President Richard Liekweg and Washington University Physicians CEO Dr. Paul Scheel Jr.
Tiny Scotland County Hospital in Memphis, Missouri, also will stop all elective surgeries starting Tuesday. The hospital is so short-staffed with 10% of health care workers out, either with COVID-19 or in quarantine, that it urged anyone in the community with health care experience “who could potentially help at this time” to apply for a job.
Missouri’s health department reported another 3,718 confirmed cases Monday, bringing the total since the pandemic began to 243,169. St. Louis County cited 1,061 new cases— the first time the county has surpassed 1,000 in a single day.
The state reported 12 additional deaths and a total of 3,386 deaths since the onset of the virus. The positivity rate of 24.4% is nearly five times the 5% benchmark suggested by the World Health Organization.