St. Louis County has taken a cautious and protective stance during the course of this pandemic to protect the lives of our residents, including one of the first stay-at-home orders in Missouri. As the largest county in the state, and with the first recorded case in Missouri, we moved swiftly to slow the spread. Four weeks ago, the safer at home order was put in place. Our hospitals were stressed then and remain stressed now. The number of cases and hospitalizations remains high and as a community we need to continue to do our part to protect not only ourselves but our loved ones too.
DPH works with multiple partners, including the Pandemic Task Force, to understand and shape our recommendations on what is happening to our residents and what we should do to act quickly and help us all get back to normal. While the numbers from our hospital systems are no longer at record levels, they remain extremely high. Therefore, St. Louis County will keep our current protective measures in place and continue to reevaluate in the hopes that we can relax soon when there is less virus circulating in our community.
Please continue to take personal protective measures including the following:
Please also continue to support our restaurants with pickup, drive-through or delivery. Indoor dining will remain closed. Our health department is working with restaurants to hear and understand their concerns and plan our path forward when the conditions improve.
Nearly 3 million doses of coronavirus vaccines are being delivered around the country this week, marking the most ambitious vaccination campaign in American history. Vaccine distribution could begin by the end of this month, but it will not be widely available to the general public for several months. We cannot let up on our efforts to curb the virus. Limiting travel and avoiding gatherings this holiday season will keep people safe.
The arrival of vaccines for our healthcare workers and our nursing home residents is a beacon of hope at the end of a very challenging year. The first batch of vaccines is the initial step toward a goal of inoculating enough people to halt the spread of the virus that has now killed nearly 300,000 Americans, including nearly 1,200 St. Louis County residents.
DPH will continue working with the state, which is tasked with managing the vaccine rollout. DPH has installed ultra-cold freezers that will provide a safe place to store the Pfizer vaccine once it arrives and is also prepared for the Moderna vaccine if it is approved soon.
Meanwhile, pharmacy companies such as Walgreens and CVS will work to get those vaccinated who work and live-in long-term care facilities. This is part of a national contract that is being managed at the federal level. The vaccine distribution process is going to take time. Once the first round of vaccines is given to healthcare workers and nursing homes, the next round goes to first responders, teachers, child care providers and other essential workers.
There is no timeline on this as of yet and is dependent on how many doses the state is given and distributes to vaccine providers across the state.