“Stay at home, Missouri.”
After weeks of criticism, Gov. Mike Parson announced Missouri would be under a statewide stay at home order to mitigate the spread of coronavirus. The order from the Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) is in effect from April 6 to April 24 but could be extended.
“As governor, I have no greater responsibility than to protect the health and safety of Missourians,” Parson said at his briefing Friday afternoon.
The move comes after more than 2,100 Missourians have tested positive for COVID-19. Several medical groups, as well as state Democrats, have vociferously called on the governor to issue such a directive.
Missouri was one of only a dozen states that had not issued a statewide stay at home order before Friday evening. States without such an order include Alabama, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and South Carolina.
But Parson stood by the actions he’s taken, he said Friday, adding the decision has “weighed so heavily on me.”
Parson said the order was more than just telling people to remain at home: “It is having the power of governor to pick winners or losers and whether I feel if it’s appropriate for me to determine who is essential and who is not. This power, I think, should be rare for government to take advantage of.”
The governor declared a state of emergency on March 13 and directed the Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) to mandate social distancing, a move that discouraged gatherings of more than 10 people. The order was set to expire on April 6.
Still, local officials called for a more stringent mandate — one that would be statewide — as people continued to violate the social distancing guidelines. Multiple local municipalities enacted their own stay at home orders before the governor’s directive.
The statewide stay at home order requires designated essential businesses “engaged in retail sales to the public” to limit occupancy to no more than 10 percent of the entity’s business or fire code occupancy for properties of at least 10,000 square feet. It limits the occupancy to no more than 25 percent of the entity’s code for those less than 10,000 square feet.
It requires individuals to remain in their homes unless to access an essential service, like a grocery store or pharmacy.
Schools are also to remain closed under the order but can still provide food services to students.
Individuals are prohibited from eating in restaurants or bars, but drive-thru, pick-up, and delivery can still be offered.
The order is to be carried out by local health officials and does not prohibit municipalities from making additional regulations.
For the past several weeks, Parson has adamantly implored Missourians to heed his administration’s social distancing order as well as guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), harping on personal responsibility.
Friday’s order directs Missourians to avoid social gatherings of more than 10 people. Both individuals and businesses are to practice social distancing, meaning people should keep at least 6 feet of space between one another.
The order also specifically states it does not prohibit or restrict the lawful possession, sale, or transfer of firearms.
“I am thankful for Governor Parson’s decision to impose a statewide stay-at-home order. I’m also thankful for the countless medical professionals and Missourians from across the state who contacted his office in recent weeks urging him to take this action,” House Minority Leader Crystal Quade said. “While the governor kept insisting urban and rural areas must be treated differently for economic reasons, the truth is we are all at risk regardless of where we live. This decision is necessary, and if it had been done sooner fewer Missourians would be at risk.”
“With more than 2,000 confirmed cases in several communities throughout our state — rural, urban, and suburban — I’m grateful Governor Parson will implement a statewide Stay at Home Order, effective this Monday. This virus spreads quickly and knows no city, county, or state boundaries and, as such, all areas must take aggressive action to protect Missourians and Americans,” Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas said in a statement.
Kansas City has been under its own stay at home order since March 24.
Lawmakers plan to convene in the capital city next week to hastily pass the supplemental budget onto the governor. The budget allocates $33 million in federal relief funds as well as $7 million in state money made available from the mid-March emergency declaration. The Capitol has already made adjustments to how it would operate for both legislators and visitors.
While the order says state office buildings must remain closed to the public, it does not have bearing on the Capitol building while the General Assembly meets.
Parson has been holding almost daily virtual briefings on how Missouri is tackling coronavirus. Friday’s briefing was pushed back two hours and did not allow for questions.
This story has been updated.
Kaitlyn Schallhorn is the editor of The Missouri Times. She joined the newspaper in early 2019 after working as a reporter for Fox News in New York City.
Throughout her career, Kaitlyn has covered political campaigns across the U.S., including the 2016 presidential election, and humanitarian aid efforts in Africa and the Middle East.
She is a native of Missouri who studied journalism at Winthrop University in South Carolina. She is also an alumna of the National Journalism Center in Washington, D.C.
Contact Kaitlyn at firstname.lastname@example.org.