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Missouri Senate postpones special session due to COVID among members, staff

  

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — The Missouri Senate has postponed the ongoing extraordinary session due to COVID-19 cases among its members and staff. 

At least one senator and one staff member has tested positive for COVID-19, Majority Floor Leader Caleb Rowden told The Missouri Times Monday morning. Lawmakers were set to reconvene in Jefferson City this week to take up a supplemental budget to distribute federal coronavirus funds and COVID liability issues. 

“Due to a number of positive COVID-19 cases among members and staff, the Missouri Senate will postpone action related to the special session until after the Thanksgiving holiday. This decision was not made lightly and, although disruptive, is in the best interest of protecting members, staff, and the public,” Rowden said. 

No committee hearings related to the special session were on the Senate calendar as of Monday morning, but the Senate was set to convene Tuesday. 

Rep. Hannah Kelly, the chair of the Joint Committee on Child Abuse and Neglect, also postponed Thursday’s scheduled hearing as a safety precaution. It will be rescheduled, she said.

“The special session to get federal CARES Act money out to local communities is postponed [because] of a COVID-19 outbreak in the [Missouri Legislature]. This virus is everywhere. It is deadly. Hospitals are overwhelmed. Schools are closed. Families and businesses are suffering,” Minority Floor Leader John Rizzo said on social media. “I am begging everyone to take this virus seriously. Wear a mask. Wash your hands. Socially distance. Listen to science. We cannot continue like this. If you love this country and our state, do your part to protect it.”

Over the weekend, more than 100 people gathered inside the Capitol building to rally in support of President Donald Trump amid the ongoing election disputes in other states. Most attendees did not wear masks during the event. 

As of Monday morning, more than 25,000 Missourians have tested positive for COVID-19 over the past seven days. According to Missouri’s method, that’s a positivity rate of 44 percent. More than 2,500 people are hospitalized including 559 in the ICU and 275 on ventilators. 

In Cole County, more than 5,000 people have tested positive for COVID-19 overall with 36 deaths. 

Special session

Gov. Mike Parson had called lawmakers back to the Capitol originally to address a supplemental budget to distribute federal coronavirus dollars. The House approved the $1.2 million package last week and sent it to the Senate. 

Parson then expanded the extraordinary session to include COVID liability protections for certain health care workers, manufacturers, and businesses. Sen. Ed Emery, a Republican, filed a bill in the upper chamber late last week to address those concerns. 

“It’s important because we’ve seen across the state in Missouri — and across the country — a rush to the trough of trial attorneys looking for quick settlements and judgments,” Emery told The Missouri Times. “It’s really hindered the reopening of businesses, even those taking every [precautionary] measure they know of but can’t afford to stay closed.” 

When he expanded the extraordinary session call, Parson said he hoped lawmakers could tackle the issue by the week after Thanksgiving. A spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the postponement of the session. 

This story has been updated.