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House cancels session next week amid rising coronavirus cases

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Just one week into this year’s legislative session, Missouri House leadership announced it will be pausing the lawmaking process.

Speaker Rob Vescovo, Speaker Pro Tem John Wiemann, and Majority Floor Leader Dean Plocher released a statement Thursday afternoon announcing the cancellation.

“Due to the rising number of COVID-19 cases in the building, we are exercising an abundance of caution to protect members, staff, and visitors by canceling session next week,” the statement said. “Our goal is to return to work the following week.”

The news comes after multiple lawmakers entered quarantine after coming in contact with people who had tested positive for the virus. Others have tested positive.

The upper chamber had a caucus call Friday to discuss its “options,” Senate Majority Floor Leader Caleb Rowden told The Missouri Times, deciding to return to the statehouse for session next week.

Temperature checks were common in the statehouse during the end of last year’s abbreviated session as well as the extraordinary sessions, but they were rare for those entering the Capitol over the past week. Rowden told reporters Thursday that testing in the statehouse was something leadership was “still talking about.”

Missouri has a 16.3 percent positivity rate over the past seven days, with more than 2,600 individuals hospitalized. Nearly 60 people have died during the past week.

In Cole County, 218 people have tested positive for COVID-19 over the past week. No one has died.

This story has been updated. Kaitlyn Schallhorn contributed to this report.