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Missouri Capitol, state offices shutter as positive coronavirus cases rise

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — The Missouri Capitol and state offices will effectively close on March 24 as the number of coronavirus cases continues to climb, Gov. Mike Parson said Monday. 

“The health and safety of all Missourians, including our state workforce, is our top priority, and the best way to stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus is by social distancing as much as possible,” Parson said. 

The Capitol and office buildings will only be open to “identified essential personnel.” 

The General Assembly was not scheduled to be in the Capitol this week as it is the legislative spring break. The state Senate had adjourned even earlier. 

State Rep. Joe Runions is the first lawmaker to have tested positive for coronavirus; an individual who had recently been in the Truman Building has also tested positive. 

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.” 

Parson also signed an executive order suspending the prohibition on sales of unprepared foods by restaurants to the public. He said this order was to “assist restaurants” as they have had to close their dining rooms or businesses completely during this time. 

Parson has been holding daily press briefings, including on the weekends, to update the public on how the state has been handling coronavirus. Monday’s briefing was the first to be virtual-only and had some hiccups as the feed cut out multiple times. 

Nearly 200 Missourians have tested positive for coronavirus throughout the state, with at least three deaths reported. 

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 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has warned.

There have been more than 33,000 confirmed cases in the U.S., and 400 deaths, according to the CDC

DHSS has opened a public hotline operated by medical professionals around the clock seven days a week. The hotline number is 877-435-8411.

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