CLAYTON, Mo. – St. Louis City and County will require masks to be worn in indoor public places and on public transportation beginning Monday. The new health order will require everyone age five and over, including those who are vaccinated, to wear a mask. Wearing masks outdoors, especially in group settings, will be strongly encouraged.

Mayor Tishaura O. Jones and County Executive Dr. Sam Page will hold a joint press conference Monday at 9:30 am to take questions about the new mask mandate.

A statement from the St. Louis Mayor’s office says that there are some exceptions in the new health orders. They include people who are seated in a restaurant or bar eating and drinking and individuals with disabilities that prevent them from putting on or removing face coverings. 

“We’ve lost more than 500 St. Louisans to COVID-19, and if our region doesn’t work together to protect one another, we could see spikes that overwhelm our hospital and public health systems,” writes Dr. Fredrick Echols, acting director of health for the City of St. Louis.

The announcement about the upcoming health orders did not include specifics relating to social distancing, education, business regulations, or sports. More details are expected after the official orders are issued next week.

Missouri is at the epicenter of the summer surge of the coronavirus, a surge driven by the fast-spreading Delta variant and low vaccination rates in rural areas.

As the delta variant of COVID-19 makes its way through the Kansas City area, the region’s medical leaders appear to be on the verge of calling for new mask mandates. According to the Kansas City Star, Dr. Steve Stites, chief medical officer at the University of Kansas Health System, says that region is seeing a big increase in patients and is “in trouble.”

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services issued a warning this week for counties along the Interstate 44 corridor. COVID-19 cases are surging in the southwest and central parts of the state due to the Delta variant, and the virus will likely move east toward St. Louis.

Greene County, Missouri, has become a national hotspot for COVID cases over the past three weeks, with the Delta variant driving the resurgence of the virus. The Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2 spreads more easily and poses a higher risk of hospitalization.

On Tuesday, the state health department posted a public health warning to Laclede, Pulaski, and Phelps counties that the virus is moving east from Southwest Missouri along I-44.

Approximately 2.48 million people have completed the vaccination process in Missouri; 57.3% of all adults 18 years of age and older have initiated the process. The highest vaccination rates are among people over 65.

Only five jurisdictions in the state are over 40% fully vaccinated: Boone, St. Louis, St. Charles, and Franklin counties, and the city of Joplin.

Vaccination rates in Laclede (24.3%), Pulaski (32.5%), and Phelps (31.3%) counties are well below the state’s overall rate of 40%.