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Parson instructs Missourians to ‘social distance,’ avoid gatherings of 10+ people


JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Beginning next week, Missourians are instructed to avoid “social gatherings” of more than 10 people and refrain from eating or drinking inside restaurants and bars. 

Gov. Mike Parson unveiled his directive to the Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) Director Dr. Randall Williams to require social distancing statewide to mitigate the spread of coronavirus. The order goes into effect on Monday at 12:01 a.m. and will last until April 6. 

The order says Missourians “shall avoid social gatherings of more than 10 people.” Social gatherings are defined as “any planned or spontaneous event or convening that would bring together more than 10 people in a single space at the same time.” 

The order also stipulates Missourians should avoid eating or drinking at restaurants, bars, or food courts. Drive-thru, pickup, and delivery services are still allowed. 

Several businesses in Missouri, including Surah Korean Cuisine & BBQ in Columbia, have shuttered indefinitely to mitigate the spread of coronavirus. (THE MISSOURI TIMES/KAITLYN SCHALLHORN)

Additionally, only those who provide critical assistance are allowed to visit nursing, retirement, and assisted living facilities. 

As of last week, all districts and charter schools have shuttered. The order mandates schools remain closed but does not prohibit schools from providing child care or food services for students who qualify. 

“As the COVID-19 crisis continues to develop, this is a critical step in protecting the health and safety of Missourians,” Parson said. “I cannot emphasize enough how important it is for all citizens to practice social distancing and abide by this order, which is backed by intense deliberation and knowledge.” 

Missourians are still able to go to grocery stores, gas stations, banks, parks, and other places but should maintain a distance of at least 6 feet from other people who are not family members. Missourians are also encouraged to work from home when possible. 

Parson declared a state of emergency on March 13, the same day the president declared a national emergency. Three Missourians have already died from coronavirus, and at least 73 individuals have tested positive. 

St. Louis County and the city of St. Louis announced new restrictions Saturday as well: a requirement for residents to stay at home whenever possible. Essential services will still be provided, and residents should be able to go to the grocery store, pharmacy, and walk in public parks. The order goes into effect March 23.

Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas has also issued a “stay at home” order for residents, effective March. 24.

“This is a serious time for our state and nation, and we must continue taking all steps necessary to stop the spread of COVID-19,” Parson said. “The more people reduce their public contact, the sooner the virus will be contained and the sooner we can overcome this challenge.” 

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 15,000 confirmed cases in the U.S., and 201 deaths, according to the CDC. Several hundred people in Missouri have been tested. 

The 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.