St. Louis Task Force makes 'urgent appeal' for everyone to wear face masks again

St. Louis face mask
Photo credit (Bill Greenblatt - UPI)

ST. LOUIS - The St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force announced it's making an "urgent appeal" to the public to return to wearing face masks when in public spaces – regardless of vaccination status.

Dr. Clay Dunagan, BJC HealthCare’s chief clinical officer and acting head of the Pandemic Task Force says a possible third wave of COVID-19 in the area could exceed the death and serious illness experienced last winter. But he says it's preventable.

He and the task force are urging everyone to wear a mask when in public spaces, like grocery stores, restaurants, businesses, when the vaccination status of everybody around you is not known.

"This is about personal choice and we’re urging our community to choose to protect one another,” says Dunagan. “Maybe you won’t personally get sick, and maybe your children won’t either, but you can still transmit the disease to others and continue the spread.”

Missouri currently has a 50% vaccination rate. The task force says "That rate should be significantly higher before it’s safe to remove masks altogether."

"I know this doesn’t seem fair,” says Dr. Dunagan. “The CDC has approved removing masks among vaccinated individuals. But our community doesn’t have enough vaccinated individuals to safely implement these recommendations in the face of the influx of the delta variant. The safest thing for our community and the most effective way to get back on track is to wear masks – and get vaccinated!”

Missouri is reporting 24 new COVID-related deaths in the past week. It's a slight increase from when the state reported seven new deaths in the last week on July 9.