Both the city of St. Louis and St. Louis County are reimposing an indoor mask mandate in an effort to fight the spread of the delta coronavirus variant and a rise in hospitalizations.
Effective on Monday, the city and county will require all residents, regardless of vaccination status, to wear masks inside public places and on transportation. The rule will apply to everyone ages 5 and older.
Wearing masks outside will be encouraged but not required.
“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,” Fredrick Echols, acting director of health for the city of St. Louis, said in a statement.
“The City and County health departments are taking this joint step to save lives, make sure hospitals can provide the care residents rely on, and protect our children so they can enjoy a full range of educational opportunities this year," he added. "Vaccines remain one of the best methods to prevent severe complications and death from the virus."
The St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force reported on Friday that 318 people were hospitalized due to COVID-19, the highest since February, according to St. Louis-based KMOV.
Officials say that more than 90 percent of those hospitalized are unvaccinated.
Statewide, Missouri reported 2,865 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, which an analysis by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch said was close to paralleling seven-day average levels seen in January.
According to data from the state, 57.5 percent of people ages 18 and older in Missouri have "initiated" vaccination and 50 percent have been fully vaccinated.
St. Louis joins Los Angeles County, which reimposed its indoor mask mandate earlier this month. However, Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said that he would not enforce the mask mandate, saying that requiring people who were already vaccinated or had contracted COVID-19 to wear masks was “not backed by science.”