COVID-19 St. Louis Jewish Medical Advisory Board – Message

May 5, 2020

Dear Community Members,

As we approach the “re-opening” phase of the COVID-19 pandemic, the doctors on the Advisory Board are closely following the latest scientific data and governmental proposals regarding the relaxation of restrictions. In consultation with our esteemed Rabbonim, we aim to provide you with useful information that is specific to our Jewish Community and its institutions.

This has been a terribly difficult time for everybody. We have all felt the effects of COVID-19 at home and seen its devastating impact on numerous families and communities, in terms of both lives and livelihoods. The doctors on our Advisory Board, and other brave healthcare workers, have fought this disease on the frontlines in our hospital emergency rooms, wards and ICUs. While we do not want to prolong restrictions for one second longer than necessary, we must also respect this disease’s ability to spread rapidly and cause more harm, G-d forbid.

The St. Louis Jewish Community has been exemplary! We can take pride in our response and our willingness to care for each other. B”H, the actions we have all taken made a HUGE DIFFERENCE and limited the impact of COVID-19 on our community. Now we all feel “quarantine fatigue” and long to be with family and friends, go to shul, entertain guests, travel and return to the lives we lived before mid-March. Yet compared to the rest of Missouri, the St. Louis region remains a “COVID hot spot” and accounts for well over 50% of all the disease activity in the state. The process of relaxing restrictions is complex and must be done in a gradual, safe and legal way. It also must be tailor-made for our unique community. Together, we will continue to get through this challenging situation.

We hope that following question/answer format will address some of the current issues that are on your minds:

 Ql: Do we still need to stay at home?
Al: Yes. The St. Louis County Stay at Home order is still in force. If you must go out, go cautiously and for essential needs only. Use delivery services whenever possible. If you are over 65 or have an underlying medical condition that places you at high risk for severe COVID-19 disease, delegate errands to somebody else and stay home.

Q2: Do we still need to socially distance?
A2: Yes. Social distancing of at least 6-feet must be maintained out of the home, whether indoors or outdoors.

Q3: When do I need to wear a mask?
A3: Whenever you leave your home. Indoors and outdoors. Everybody 3 years and older. The mask must cover the nose and mouth. We strongly recommend that one wear a mask even while walking in the neighborhood. The highest level of precaution should be taken even outdoors and demonstrates your concern and consideration for others.

Q4: How often should I wash my hands?
A4: Very often. Always after handling any items that come from outside the house. Use soap and water for at least 20 seconds or hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Avoid touching your face (eye s, nose and mouth).

Q5: How long must we continue social distancing, wearing masks, and washing hands?
A5: Until we get an effective vaccine. This is not expected for at least 12 months.

Q6: Should people from different households mix yet?
AG: No. It is still necessary to remain separate, even family members living in different homes.

Q7: Can cleaning help or baby-sitters come into the house?
A7: No. Not yet. This is mixing of households or sometime s even communities. It remains too risky. 

Q8: What about travel? Can family or guests come visit from out of town?
A8: No. We are not yet open to visitors. There must be no travel to or from St. Louis at this time. Only family members who are moving back permanently can come IF they have quarantined 14 days, are not feeling sick, and they discuss their specific situation with one of our physicians. An  additional 14-day quarantine could be necessary upon arrival.
 Q9: Can we have guests for Shavuot?A9: No. The exact same standard set for Pesach remains necessary for Shavuot.

Q lO: When will our shul buildings and other institutions re-open?
A lO: We will begin our process of re-opening after St. Louis County begins its process of re-opening, but our process will be slower and more careful. For 2 weeks after the County re-opens, we will monitor for a “second wave” of infection before formalizing recommendations for re-opening our community.

Q ll: Why is our community being more strict than St Louis County?
A ll: Because our community is close-knit, very social, and mobile. These unique characteristics, plus the fact that asymptomatic people spread the virus, put us at above average risk for a surge in COVID-19 transmission.

Q12: When will our school buildings re-open?
A12: G-d willing next Fall. It is unlikely that school will be allowed to re-open before this school year ends.

Q13: What about minyanim or other activities OUTDOORS, with social distancing and masks?
A13: Not yet. The County’s Stay at Home Orders prohibit gatherings of any size outside of residences, essential businesses, or during essential activities. Once the County relaxes that prohibition, we will consider allowing some form of OUTDOOR minyanim, remaining careful to comply in detail with all current County orders including social distancing, masks, and limit s on the number of participants.

Q14: What will going to shul be like when we return?
A14: It will be different. While we can foresee social distancing and masks, there are many details to consider as we  work to reconfigure the rich tapestry of shul life. The Advisory Board will develop and recommend specific guidelines, in stages, based upon coronavirus disease activity and risk in St. Louis County. While many fundamentals will be the same, each shul will craft its own policy specific to its needs. We recommend that those who are over 65, have predisposing medical conditions, or are pregnant, carefully consider the dangers of exposing themselves (and their households) to groups of people in an enclosed space like shul. They may wish to delay their return to shul until a safer time. In addition, policy regarding children unable to wear masks and/or comply with social distancing will be discussed before shuls open.

We hope this Q&A has been helpful. There are many details, additional topics and specific situations to cover. We look forward to keeping the community posted on a regular basis with information that is up-to-date and relevant to the important decisions that lie ahead. Please do not hesitate to speak with us directly about any question, issue or situation, whether private or communal.

With warmest regards and concern for your physical, spiritual and psychological wellbeing. COVID-19 St. Louis Jewish Medical Advisory Board,Larry Brown, MD, PhD, Emergency Medicine Mark Friedman, MD, Cardiology
Daniela Hermelin, MD, Pathology
 Morey Gardner, MD, Infectious Disease
Tessa Gardner, MD, Infectious Disease
Stuart Ozar, MD, Psychiatry
Craig Reiss, MD, Cardiology
Todd Silverman ,  MD

Greg Storch, MD, Infectious Disease
Robert Strashun, MD, Pediatrics

Dov Zeffren, MD, Allergy/Immunology
Rabbi Ze’ev Smason  
Rabbi M enchem Greenblatt              
Rabbi Yosef Landa              
Rabbi Moshe Shulman

Rabbi Garth Silberstein      
Rabbi Menachem Tendler

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