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BELLEVILLE — In response to rising COVID-19 hospitalizations and the spread of the delta variant, the city of St. Louis and St. Louis County announced Friday people will be required to wear masks in indoor public places and on public transportation beginning Monday.

According to a press release issued by the county, the new rule will require everyone age 5 and over, including those who are vaccinated, to wear a face covering. Wearing masks outdoors, especially in group settings, will be strongly encouraged, the press release stated.

Mayor Tishaura O. Jones and County Executive Dr. Sam Page will hold a media briefing at 9:30 a.m. Monday at St. Louis City Hall to address the mandate.

"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," Dr. 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."

Echols further stressed standard COVID protocols, including for people to wear a mask, wash their hands, and watch their distance when possible, in addition to getting vaccinated.

"Vaccines remain one of the best methods to prevent severe complications and death from the virus," Echols said in the press release.

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Dr. Faisal Khan, acting director of the St. Louis County Department of Public Health, also emphasized the importance of vaccinations and masks in the release.

"Vaccinations are the best way to stop the fast-spreading Delta variant of COVID-19, but so far, not enough people have been vaccinated," Dr. Khan said. "We are relentlessly committed to making vaccinations more accessible and convenient. In the meantime, we need everyone, vaccinated or not, to wear masks in crowded indoor settings. We must protect our most vulnerable residents as well as children under 12, who are not yet eligible for vaccinations."

Exceptions in the orders will include people who are seated in a restaurant or bar eating and drinking and individuals with disabilities that prevent them from putting on or removing face coverings, the press release said.

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This article originally ran on pantagraph.com.

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