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Coronavirus concerns shutter some public areas of Capitol; lawmakers urge guests to avoid visits


JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — The Missouri House Chambers and Lounge have shuttered to the public out of caution after the state confirmed its first coronavirus case over the weekend. 

Senate President Pro Tem Dave Schatz, Senate Majority Floor Leader Caleb Rowden, Senate Minority Floor Leader John Rizzo, House Speaker Elijah Haahr, House Majority Floor Leader Rob Vescovo, and House Minority Floor Leader Crystal Quade released a joint statement Tuesday afternoon regarding precautions being taken. 

In addition to closing some public areas in the House that are “difficult to disinfect on a regular basis,” the lawmakers also said they are “encouraging guests who are not directly participating in the legislative business to refrain from visiting the Capitol at this time.” 

Gov. Mike Parson announced the first confirmed case of a Missourian who tested positive for coronavirus on Saturday. The woman, who is in her 20s, is in St. Louis County and had recently traveled to Italy. 

So far, there have been more than 640 confirmed cases in the U.S. and 25 deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

The virus has been named “SARS-CoV-2” while the disease is called “coronavirus disease 2019,” or “COVID-19.” It can cause severe respiratory illnesses with symptoms such as fever, cough, and shortness of breath, the CDC has warned. 

“It is out of an abundance of caution that the General Assembly is taking the preventative steps to minimize the risk of an outbreak in Missouri,” Haahr said.  “While the General Assembly continues to conduct business as normal, we will closely monitor the situation to take necessary actions to maintain a safe environment that will ensure the health and wellbeing of all those who work in, and visit, the Capitol.”

“Schools, advocacy groups, and the public at large should strongly consider the reality that a large and diverse population travels to and from the Capitol on a daily basis,” said Schatz. “Most people will not be at risk but, as with any other infectious disease, we need to remain vigilant because populations we may come in contact with, such as the elderly or those with weakened immune systems, are at risk.”

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