ST. CHARLES COUNTY, Mo. – The St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force now calls St. Charles County the top hot spot for COVID-19 in the St. Louis area. One of the county’s most vital businesses, the General Motors Assembly Plant in Wentzville, is taking a big hit from the fallout.
“That is what we’re seeing. There is a large number of cases in St. Charles County,” said Dr. Alex Garza, Incident Commander of the Task Force, in response to our questions about St. Charles County’s hot spot status.
The county has begun a new Mask Up St. Charles County initiative to get people to wear face coverings. It includes a messaging blitz on social media the distribution of 250,000 free masks to the public through library branches, churches, police departments, and community centers.
New numbers released Monday show why.
St. Charles County now has had 1,748 total cases, with more 220 cases and three deaths (up to 80 total for the pandemic) since Friday; 694 or 40 percent of all cases have come in the last two weeks; more than 20 percent of all cases are now among people in their 20s, the largest percentage of any age group.
GM is idling about 1,200 workers, dropping its third shift because so many workers are staying home out of fear of catching or unknowingly spreading COVID, according to a union official.
St. Charles County Executive Steve Ehlmann has resisted issuing a mask mandate like those now in place in St. Louis City and County.
“There’s studies out there that have shown that mandating mask wearing, you get much higher compliance than voluntary mask wearing,” Dr. Garza said. “Evidence is really clear: wearing a face mask can decrease transmission rates in the community. The science is very clear on this.”
Just 23 employees of the more than 4,000 of GM Wentzville workers have tested positive.
That is a very small percentage; still, the United Auto Workers union will launch a drive-through COVID-19 testing station for GM-Wentzville workers on Monday, July 20, a union official said.