“I know there have been recent concerns about COVID-19 cases in Missouri,” Parson said during Tuesday’s press conference. “As we have said many, many times, the more testing we do, the more positive cases there will be. This is not a surge or a second wave going on in Missouri; these are outbreaks in specific areas that we are aggressively testing to box in the virus and prevent further spreading.”
“We are not overwhelmed, we are not currently experiencing a second wave, and we have no intention of closing Missouri back down at this point in time,” Parson said.
The recent increases in positive cases occurred in southwest Missouri, primarily in McDonald, Jasper, Barry, and Newton Counties. Missouri’s Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) identified 310 of the 413 new cases reported on June 20 and 21 as coming from these areas.
“We are grateful for our partnerships locally, federally and in neighboring states like Arkansas, that allow all of us to collaborate during these times that public health experts are in great need,” said DHSS Director Dr. Randall Williams. “It is also important to understand that this is a localized outbreak — not a surge of cases throughout the state — and together, we are responding accordingly.”
DHSS also said the increase in positive cases was likely due to Missouri’s “box-in” testing strategy occurring in that part of the state. Much of the outbreak occurred at a Tyson food processing plant in McDonald county as well as similar facilities.
“As we look across the state of Missouri right now and we look at our positivity rate, overall it’s low and most recently it’s even lower,” Williams said during the press conference. “As we open up the state, the governor was insistent we be ready for outbreaks.”
The governor fully opened the state last week, lifting state restrictions on businesses and removing statewide social distancing orders, while still allowing local officials to continue making the policies for their communities. The opening also included increased testing and a gradual reopening of nursing homes to visitors.
“We feel like this is a virus that is not going to go away,” Parson said. “That’s not gonna change, so the economy has to reopen, people have to get back to some sort of normal life, schools have to get back engaged. I’m gonna get back to what I’ve been saying all along: social distancing is the most important thing you can do. We’re not going back here; we’ve got to keep moving forward.”
More than 18,500 Missourians have tested positive for COVID-19 as of Tuesday; 966 people have died.