By Associated Press - Thursday, July 16, 2020

ST. LOUIS (AP) - St. Louis County will impose limits next week on youth sports amid coronavirus outbreaks among players, the county executive announced Thursday.

Teams will be banned from playing other teams, they’ll be restricted to groups of 10 people or fewer, and spectators won’t be allowed, St. Louis County Executive Sam Page said.

Page said the county is imposing the restrictions because of outbreaks of coronavirus among young athletes.

“Because youth sports bring people together, the activities that surround these sports are fertile grounds for viral transmission,” Page said. “Kids practice together, they play together, they socialize together, they hang out on the sidelines, people gather to watch.”

He said getting outbreaks among youth athletes under control is also necessary to ensure options for in-class learning in K-12 schools are still available in the fall.

St. Louis officials also are considering whether to restore some restrictions to help stem the spread of the coronavirus.

Mayor Lyda Krewson noted that “COVID numbers continue to not look very good” in announcing that meetings were taking place Wednesday and Thursday to discuss possible changes, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.

Dr. Alex Garza, director of the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force, which includes the area’s four major hospital systems, said that there are “very few levers to pull, outside of then pulling back on those societal restrictions.”

The state reported 708 new confirmed COVID-19 cases Thursday, bringing the total to 30,422, a 36% increase from two weeks ago. The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services also said the number of deaths increased by 10 to 1,113.

Health department Director Randall Williams on Thursday said the agency is about four days behind in recording test results from private labs, which amounts to a backlog of about 7,000 tests.

Meanwhile, state officials are encouraging tourism in the state.

Republican Gov. Mike Parson on Thursday announced $15 million in grants to help the tourism industry, which was stymied by the coronavirus.

Williams said he’s comfortable both with out-of-state visitors traveling to Missouri and state residents vacationing outside the state as long as they social distance, wash their hands and wear masks.

Other areas also have been hard hit. Just south of Kansas City in Cass County, 47 infections have been linked to a party that drew hundreds on the eve of Independence Day, health director Andrew Warlen told the AP on Thursday. The cases led the Pleasant Hill and Harrisonville school districts to shut down extracurricular activities for 14 days because some of the party-goers were involved in summer school activities.

“It tells us that COVID-19 is not gone,” Warlen said in an email. “I saw a few comments on social media from those who were infected and the consensus was that they had not taken COVID-19 seriously and this situation made it much more REAL. Ironically, the audience at the party is not who is most at risk for an adverse outcome if infected. It is their parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, teachers, coaches, etc.”

Parson has said he will not issue a statewide order requiring face coverings. But several cities are mandating them in an effort to reduce virus transmission. Among them is Springfield, where an ordinance took effect Thursday.

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