Some youth sports restrictions removed in St. Louis County

O'FALLON, Mo. (AP) — St. Louis County is relaxing some restrictions on youth sports as coronavirus positivity rates have decreased among children in the region, County Executive Sam Page said Wednesday.

The new regulations fall short of allowing high-contact high school sports such as football and ice hockey to resume. But Page said at a news conference that if the trend continues to improve, there may be a “path forward” to allow play to begin later this fall.

St. Louis County is Missouri's largest jurisdiction by population, and the county has seen far more COVID-19 cases and deaths than anyplace else in the state. Though Republican Gov. Mike Parson allowed Missouri to reopen in mid-June, Page, a Democrat, has maintained far stricter guidelines, including limits on youth sports.

Those limits have drawn strong criticism from some parents, including protests outside Page's home and outside the government center in Clayton. A few St. Louis County districts have begun scheduling games elsewhere.

Page cited a significant drop in the positivity rate among young people for his decision to roll back restrictions. Two weeks ago, the positivity rate in the 15-19 age group was 20%, he said. Now, it's 7.4%.

“This means more of those adolescents are getting tested, and more of those test results are coming back negative," Page said. "Those are the kind of results that we want to see.”

Effective Monday, the county will allow “high-frequency contact sports” including football, for all children 14 and under. The guidelines also allow all students, including high school students, to play moderate-contact sports such as baseball, soccer and field hockey, as well as cheerleading and dance teams.

Guidelines will allow two spectators per athlete to attend games, with a limit of 50 total spectators.

Page said football and other high-contact high school sports could possibly resume soon if the trend continues. He said another announcement could come in a few weeks.

“Although we are not permitting games at high-contact sports for high school students yet, such as football or basketball, we are actively working on a path forward that might include competitive games for those sports sometime later this fall," Page said.

Statewide, Missouri reported 83 new deaths Wednesday, the most reported in a single day, topping the 57 deaths reported Tuesday. Daily death reports can be misleading because they are based on data provided to the state from local agencies, and some agencies may report multiple days at one time. All told, the death toll in Missouri now stands at 1,947.

The state has reported 116,946 confirmed coronavirus cases since the pandemic began, including 1,580 new cases announced Wednesday.

Also Wednesday, the wife of Gov. Mike Parson, Teresa Parson, tested positive for the coronavirus after experiencing mild symptoms, a spokeswoman for the governor told media outlets. Parson, an opponent of mask mandates, also was being tested.