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Missouri begins to reopen but will ‘look very different for a while’

  

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — From restaurants to churches, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson is ready to gradually open the state, but he said “opening these businesses is going to look very different for a while.” 

In unveiling his phased-approach for reopening Missouri Monday, Parson said his plan is a “deliberate and data-driven process that allows for flexibility based on changing situations.” 

As of Monday afternoon, more than 7,100 Missourians have tested positive for coronavirus with nearly 300 deaths. 

As part of the new economic reopening order, restaurants can begin offering dining-in services again as long as social distancing and other precautionary measures are in place. This includes spacing tables at least 6 feet apart and banning communal seating to people not connected. 

Retail stores are able to reopen as well but must limit the number of people inside the store. Stores with less than 10,000 square feet should limit those inside to 25 percent or less of the entity’s authorized fire or building code occupancy; locations with at least 10,000 square feet should set the limit to 10 percent or less of its authorized occupancy. 

Office of the Governor

Grocery stores, which have remained open during the statewide shutdown, are also subjected to the occupancy limitations. 

Parson’s first phase of reopening Missouri — a process his administration has deemed the “Show Me Strong Recovery Plan” — has four pillars. 

Those are: 

  1. An expansion of testing capacity and volume in Missouri
  2. An expansion of personal protective equipment (PPE) reserves through opening public and private supply chains
  3. A continuation of monitoring and expansion of hospitals and health care system capacity, including isolation and alternate care facilities for those who cannot quarantine at home
  4. An improvement in the ability to predict potential outbreaks using Missouri’s public health data

Under the order, which is in effect from May 4 to May 31, schools are still to remain closed for the rest of this academic year. Nursing, assisted living, and retirement homes “must continue to have stronger guidance to mitigate the risk of contracting and spreading COVID-19,” Parson said. 

Churches, too, can hold in-person services but should practice social distancing and avoid shaking hands or sharing communion cups. 

The Monday briefing was peppered with cacophonous protesters who are angry at the governor for shutting down the state in the first place. Hundreds of people demonstrated across Missouri last week, calling for the state to be reopened. 

At the federal level, guidelines for the reopening of states are in place, including a downward trajectory of both influenza-like illnesses and COVID-19 symptoms within a 14 day period. Additionally, hospitals must be able to treat all patients without crisis care and have a “robust testing program” in place for health care workers deemed to be at-risk. 

Herb Kuhn, the Missouri Hospital Association president, said facilities across the state can resume elected procedures again but in a phased-in approach. 

Last week, Parson extended Missouri’s emergency declaration until mid-June. 

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