Pandemic Task Force chief asks for cooperation with mask mandate

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A mask ordinance will go into effect for St. Louis City and County on Friday.

St. Louis Metro Pandemic Task Force leader Dr. Alex Garza said increased hospitalization admissions and increased cases of COVID-19 is what concerned health officials.

He is now urging residents to put on a mask.

“It takes all of us in the community to stop the spread,” Dr. Garza said. “It only works if a majority of the population participates. Most of the evidence says anywhere from 85 to 90 percent of the population needs to be wearing a mask in order for this to be effective.”

Dr. Garza said he knows that people are hesitant because some people may feel like the rule is being imposed on them. However, he believes it’s a small request.

“It’s a pretty low ask for huge benefit because if we can’t control cases and if hospitalizations do go up, that means we have to ratchet back down on the more punitive things or the more restrictive things,” Dr. Garza said.

Some states, including Texas, Florida, and parts of California have ordered dining areas and bars to close. FOX 2 News asked Dr. Garza if he believed that could be the case in Missouri.

“It all depends. If we see cases continuing to rise, if we see hospitalizations and mortality continue to rise, then you have to reevaluate,” he said. “What are the things we need to do to stop transmission? And I don’t think anyone wants to go back to shelter-in-place, closing businesses.”

He said wearing a mask will help more places stay open, which—in turn—is good for the economy.

“Even if you think you’re at low-risk and you don’t think that this is particularly going to be harmful for you, the impacts of the virus spreading and more people in the hospital, is your life will become more restrictive,” Dr. Garza said.

COVID-19 cases are rising in the younger generation as well.

Dr. Garza said he assumes the higher cases can be attributed to younger people not feeling as many symptoms as older people and due to the bar atmosphere, that a younger generation may typically congregate at.

“Reopening of restaurants, bars, things like that, young people will congregate in places like that,” he said. “It’s usually crowded, loud music, so people can’t hear each other, so you’re talking loudly which causes you to breathe more heavily, expel more aerosol and then you mix into that alcohol – where people can become a little disinhibited, not wanting to wear a mask.”

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