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‘Open for business’: Missouri moves to ‘fully reopen’ while COVID-19 is ‘still out there’

  

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — As of June 16, Missouri will be “fully open for business” even though the coronavirus “is still out there,” Gov. Mike Parson announced Thursday. 

The second phase of Parson’s reopening plan means there will be no statewide health order — albeit, local officials will be able to enact more stringent rules or policies, as was the practice under the initial stage. The governor said all four “pillars” to reopening — expended testing, securing personal protective equipment (PPE), hospital capacity, and Missouri data — had been met during the extended initial phase. 

“It’s truly incredible to think how far Missouri has come since March,” Parson said. “At that time, no one knew what to expect. There was a lot of uncertainty, worry, and concern — cornerns that our hospitals would be overwhelmed and that we wouldn’t have enough hospital beds and ventilators; concerns over PPE shortages; concerns that testing wouldn’t be widely available; and many other corners.” 

“Knowing what we know, we are much better prepared to deal with COVID-19 going forward. Which is why we are confident that Missouri is ready to take the next step forward,” he said. “Missouri will be fully open for business in the entire state of Missouri.” 

As Missouri moves into the second phase, Parson said he’s extended the state of emergency declaration through Dec. 30 to continue utilizing federal CARES Act funding. He also extended previous executive orders — related to the sale of unprepared restaurant foods to the public, mobilization of the Missouri National Guard, easement of certain regulations, and the waiver of in-person notary requirements — Thursday. 

“We have full confidence that Missouri is prepared and ready to move forward,” Parson told reporters. “But I want to be clear: Just because we’re fully reopening the state does not mean the steps we’ve taken so far should be forgotten. The virus is still out there, and it is extremely important for everyone to continue social distancing.” 

“At some point, government has to get out of the way and let people live their lives and regulate their own selves. … We are at that time in the state of Missouri,” Parson said. 

As for nursing and veterans homes, Parson said the Department of Health and Senior Service (DHSS) is working with longterm care facilities to come up with community-based guidance for reopening. Those health department recommendations are expected within the “next few days.” 

And Parson said the motel in Florissant that had been turned into a temporary makeshift hospital is “still there.” It’s had “few” patients, however, he said. 

The facility is able to accommodate more than 100 people and can hold individuals who have tested positive for coronavirus but show mild or no symptoms. It can also hold people who have been exposed to the virus and have been referred by health care professionals for treatment.

“We still want that there just in case we do have an outbreak, if something unforeseen would happen,” Parson said, noting it would be in place as a “security blanket” for “at least a few more months.” 

As of Thursday, 15,390 Missourians have tested positive for COVID-19 with 860 people dead. Health officials have said a surge in positive cases of late is the result of ramped-up testing efforts. 

Kevin Donohoe, a spokesperson of the Missouri Democratic Party, blasted Parson’s news as a “victory lap” as he campaigns for governor. 

“Parson’s tone-deaf announcement was all about election-year politics — and completely ignored the fact that under his watch, the coronavirus pandemic’s spread across our state appears to be accelerating,” Donohoe said in a statement. “The evidence of Parson’s failed response to this crisis is everywhere: new cases are surging, more Missourians are dying of COVID-19, and the state still doesn’t have a contact tracing program. In November, voters will remember that Mike Parson put his head in the sand during Missouri’s worst public health crisis in a century.” 

Department of Economic Development Director Rob Dixon said the announcement was a “tremendous step toward our state’s economic recovery.” 

“We want to get Missourians back to work. We want to make sure that we’re eliminating barriers to business growth so they can return strong,” Dixon said. “We want to help local governments and non-profit organizations access resources, and we want to help invest in our state’s infrastructure in ways that drives job creation across the board.” 

Nearly 20,000 people filed initial unemployment claims for the week ending in June 6 in Missouri, according to data from the Department of Labor & Industrial Relations. The peak occurred at the end of March and beginning of April as 104,230 people filed initial unemployment claims the week ending March 28; 91,049 people filed initial claims the week ended April 4; and 101,722 people filed initial claims the week ending April 11. 


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