With thousands of students returning to college this week, St. Louis is tightening restrictions for many places where they might socialize in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson and acting city Health Director Dr. Fredrick Echols issued a new health order Wednesday that lowers the capacity for bars, restaurants and nightclubs that sell alcohol from 75% to 50%. The order also imposes an 11 p.m. curfew for bars and restaurants.

Krewson said during a news conference that 51% of the city’s new cases in the last week involved people in their 20s and 30s, and those numbers are expected to increase as students return.

“All of that combined has said to us that we really cannot keep these numbers going up in 20- and 30-year-olds,” said Krewson. She said the city had hoped to avoid tightening the rules.

Large venues, such as museums, event spaces and theaters, also must not exceed 50% capacity under the new order, which takes effect Thursday and lasts through at least Sept. 7.

Confirmed cases continue to increase across Missouri, with 1,595 new cases reported Wednesday bringing the state’s total to 62,530.

The state reported 11 new deaths, for t total of 1,323. The true numbers are believed to be much higher because people can have the virus without feeling ill and because of a lack of testing, particularly early in the pandemic.

About 85% of the 1,575 freshmen were expected to move into dorms at St. Louis University this week before classes — many of them remote — begin Monday.

The university will give students rapid COVID-19 tests, and those who test positive will stay in isolation rooms.

“We have some protocols,” said President Fred Pestello. “We’re not going to be able to shake hands and hug each other, (but) overwhelmingly we heard from our student body that they want to be in community with each other.”

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