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Coronavirus and the Capitol: How concerns, precautions are impacting state government

   

With more than 200 Missourians having tested positive for coronavirus, concerns about the global pandemic have impacted state government — including shuttering some public areas.  

Gov. Mike Parson declared a state of emergency on March 13, the same day President Donald Trump declared a national emergency. The Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) has opened a public hotline that will be operated by medical professionals around the clock seven days a week. The hotline number is 877-435-8411. 

Here’s a running look at how coronavirus concerns and precautions are impacting state and local governments and more. (This will be regularly updated.) 

Capitol

The state Capitol was closed on March 24, a few days after a state representative tested positive for coronavirus.

General Assembly

The state Senate adjourned for the legislative spring break, scheduled for the week of March 23, a week early. And the House held a technical session while it worked to pass a supplemental budget. The House already announced some public areas, including the Chamber and Lounge, have closed to the public for the time being. 

There’s no word on when session is expected to resume — if at all.

State offices

State offices closed on March 24 to all non-essential personnel.

Many departments had already instituted a work-from-home policy for its employees. Office of Administration Director Sarah Steelman said about 15,000 state employees are already working from home. She said workers are “still providing essential government services.”

Several offices, such as the Treasurer’s Office, had already instituted work-from-home policies prior to the March 24 announcement.

Missouri courts

In-person proceedings in all appellate and circuit courts in Missouri have been suspended through April 17 due to coronavirus, the state Supreme Court ordered.

This includes all associate, family, juvenile, municipal, and probate divisions, the court said. The suspension is March 17 through April 3 — although the Missouri Supreme Court could decide to extend the order.

Department of Corrections 

The Department of Corrections suspended visits to offenders at all facilities. However, attorneys are still permitted to schedule visits through the deputy warden or warden’s office at each facility. 

“While we recognize that visiting is an essential part of rehabilitation, the department must protect the health and wellness of all who live in, work in, and visit state prisons,” the department said in an email. 

The department announced on March 23 that an inmate had tested positive for coronavirus.

Department of Transportation

The Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) said it will allow for heavier-than-normal truckloads of supplies and equipment to travel on highways “in the direct effort to prevent, contain, mitigate, and treat the effects of the COVID-19 virus.” The waiver gives both private and for-hire carriers the ability to haul up to 10 percent more than their licensed weight.

Department of Mental Health 

The Missouri Department of Mental Health restricted visitor access at state mental health facilities.

Governor’s Mansion

Friends of the Missouri Governor’s Mansion said tours are temporarily suspended.

“Protecting our volunteer docents, staff, and visitors is our top priority,” Rebecca Gordon, Friends of the Missouri Governor’s Mansion executive director, said. “Because visitors to the Mansion come from across the state, we are carefully monitoring the situation and suspending tours out of an abundance of caution.”

Missouri Veterans Commission

Visitor access to the seven state veterans’ homes across Missouri — including by volunteers and vendors — is restricted by the Missouri Veterans Commission.

“This is being done to ensure we attempt all efforts to prevent the virus from entering our home,” the commission said on social media. “We will encourage communication with your loved one daily. Our staff will also assist those who want to ‘see’ their loved ones using FaceTime or with other video methods.”

Department of Conservation 

The Missouri Department of Conservation canceled most public events and programs at nature centers, shooting ranges, and other locations until April 15. Nature, visitor, and education centers shuttered effective March 19.

Nursing homes/DHSS

DHSS has instructed nursing facilities to limit or restrict visitations to protect the health of residents. It has provided guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) which include:

Facilities should actively screen and restrict visitation by those who meet the following criteria:

    • Signs or symptoms of a respiratory infection, such as fever, cough, shortness of breath, or sore throat.
    • In the last 14 days, has had contact with someone with a confirmed diagnosis of COVID- 19, or under investigation for COVID-19, or are ill with respiratory illness.
    • International travel within the last 14 days to countries with sustained community transmission. For updated information on affected countries visit: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/index.html
    • Residing in a community where community-based spread of COVID-19 is occurring.

For those individuals that do not meet the above criteria, facilities can allow entry but may require visitors to use Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) such as facemask.

Missouri Parks

The Missouri State Parks has canceled or postponed park and historic site programs and events through the end of April. It also will close all campgrounds and lodging beginning on March 27 through April 30. Day-use areas, such as boat ramps and trails, will remain open.

Missouri Casinos

Missouri casinos have closed from March 18 through March 30, Parson said after consulting with the Gaming Commission.

Missouri State Highway Patrol

The Missouri State Highway Patrol (MSHP) suspended driver road testing at all locations on March 17. It has also suspended all written and skills-based driver testing at every location through April 6.

MSHP also is allowing enforcement personnel to wash their uniforms personally after every shift, instead of having them dry cleaned.

Special Olympics Missouri

The Special Olympics Missouri suspended all sports trainings, practices, competitions, and other activities involving its athletes through March 31. The organization said it would re-evaluate at the end of the month. 

Missouri Military Appreciation Day

Missouri Military Appreciation Day events planned for March 31 have been canceled, Joe Driskill, executive director of Missouri Military Preparedness and Enhancement Commission, said. He said it is unclear at this time if the event can be rescheduled.

Missouri Propane Gas Association

The Missouri Propane Gas Association canceled all of its Spring District Safety Meetings. Meeting presentations are expected at a later date.

Missouri Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence

The Missouri Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence (MCADSV) suspended all in-person meetings and training until April 3.

This story has been updated. 


EDITOR’S NOTE: For up-to-date information on coronavirus, check with the CDC and DHSS.