At the July 13 St. Charles County Council meeting, I presented an update on the status of COVID-19 in St. Charles County. Unfortunately, the number of positive cases recently has been increasing at a substantial rate.
First, let’s update the data from my presentation and go over numbers as of July 22. Below is a chart showing the positive confirmed case counts from the St. Charles County Department of Public Health from March 18 through July 22. The black line represents the 14-day moving average. Even when we adopted the Governor’s Show Me Strong Recovery plan in May and businesses that decided to close reopened, the line continued to trend down and then became relatively flat. As you can see, over the past few weeks the line has gone up as cases have increased.
Next is a chart of COVID-19 cases by month and age from March through July 22. This information and other data are available on our COVID-19 Dashboard. By May, cases in all age groups were down, and by June some of the age groups started tracking upward. As of July 22, the 20-29 age group is “off the charts” and the under 20 and 30-39 age groups are significantly higher. From July 8 to July 22, there were 1,362 additional cases – a 297 percent increase – and most new cases are in these groups. While these age groups are less likely to have complications, this doesn’t mean there aren’t consequences for them and the community. They can still get very sick and spread the illness to others, including to more vulnerable age groups and populations.
So how are these residents contracting the virus? As you can see below, in June and July, the unknown and community contact categories have made up the majority of exposure types. More people have been out and about in our community and elsewhere – which is also reflected in our traffic data – and many aren’t sure where they contracted COVID-19. This chart demonstrates why it is still important for EVERYONE, regardless of age, to continue to follow precautions: social distance, avoid large gatherings and crowded places, practice good hygiene, and wear a mask in public. This chart also supports why contact tracing and quarantine measures are crucial. As of July 22, there were 1,204 residents in quarantine as a confirmed case or as a contact with a confirmed case. Residents who have been asked to quarantine throughout the pandemic have been cooperative, and I greatly appreciate their efforts for the community.
While our cases are up, it is also important to place St. Charles County in context with the rest of the region. If you look at the cases per capita below and compare St. Charles County to St. Louis city and county, you can see we have been on a different trajectory since March. Our cases per capita were, and continue to be, lower than St. Louis city and county.
In addition to case numbers, the Department of Public Health, my administration and I keep a close eye on resident deaths and hospitalizations, both of which have declined compared to earlier in the pandemic. In the first 90 days, there were 24 deaths per month; between June 13 and July 22, there were 13 deaths. The majority of residents who have passed away reside in long-term care facilities; of the 84 deaths as of July 22, 71 were in these facilities. The Department of Public Health has worked diligently to help these facilities control outbreaks. As for hospitalizations and ICU admissions, the graph below shows these numbers are still lower than in late April/early May but are starting to trend upward as cases increase. Again, the key to keeping these numbers down is to continue following precautions.
Along with case numbers, a huge area of concern for me, my administration, and our directors and staff is the increase of County employee cases. As you can see in the following chart, prior to June 27 we had seven cases; as of July 22, there were 44. Like other employers, we are taking a steps to keep employees safe and stop the spread, including deep cleaning areas where employees who tested positive worked, allowing employees to work at home if they are able, and requiring employees to wear masks when they are not at their workstations.
I believe it is the duty of government to educate the people about the importance of masks and other precautions – which we are. When St. Louis city and county ordered businesses to close, we took a different approach. Our order required people to stay at home except to go to work and do what they think is essential. We did not tell businesses to close. Most residents did a great job; they didn’t show up at non-essential places and those places closed on their own as a result – without government intervention.
Now, I am again trusting there will be voluntary compliance. The chart below from The New York Times already demonstrates this is happening. Throughout the county, the majority of citizens are always or frequently wearing masks in public when they expect to be within 6 feet of another person. A strong economy relies on keeping businesses open.
Source: The New York Times