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Parson: ‘Irresponsible’ to treat vaccinated, unvaccinated people same with mask mandates

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Treating individuals who have been vaccinated against COVID-19 and those who have not the same under mask mandates is an “irresponsible” move, Gov Mike Parson said. 

As coronavirus cases continue to rise in Missouri, Kansas City and St. Louis have implemented indoor mask mandates — causing consternation among Republicans who believe those mandates violate a recently enacted law placing restrictions on local health orders. 

Parson said he signed HB 271 into law in order to prevent an “overreach of power.” He’s said the mandates, especially as they all apply to anyone regardless of vaccination status, could discourage individuals in Missouri from getting inoculated. 

“What we need to do is try to make sure we move that needle to … give them accurate information for them to make those decisions, and we encourage with facts and not all the political propaganda, the mask mandate again that we’re going through with no scientific proof whatsoever of why we’re doing that,” Parson said in an interview Thursday. 

“And to try to treat vaccinated people the same as unvaccinated people and not recognize there is a difference, totally is irresponsible,” Parson continued. “To us, to the leaders of this state and health care workers, we need to make sure people understand there’s a difference between the two and not treat them the same.” 

Earlier this week, the St. Louis County Council voted to rescind its mandate, yet the county executive has maintained it is still in place. Attorney General Eric Schmitt asked a court for a temporary restraining order to halt the county mandate. He’s promised a similar court challenge in Kansas City as well.  

The new law said local officials can only issue health orders for up to 30 days and gave a county government the opportunity to overturn orders. It also said orders cannot “directly or indirectly” close or place restrictions on businesses. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also updated its guidance this week to recommend face coverings for people, regardless of vaccination status, in areas of substantial or high-risk transmission. As of Thursday, only one county in Missouri did not fall under those categories: Scotland County in the northeast corner of the state. 

Parson has long been against a statewide mask mandate — and he has taken a similar position when it comes to vaccinations. Instead, he’s encouraged Missourians to get the vaccine and publicly received his

Missouri recently unveiled a pair of vaccine incentive programs, and the state has reported an uptick of vaccination requests since. The chief executive said he would “most certainly” consider additional incentive programs if the state continues to see positive results. 

“If we see this as really moving the needle — which right now, it looks better than I thought it would — I think all of the things we can put on the table, we need to put out there,” Parson said. “We know [the vaccine] works.” 

Nearly 51 percent of adult Missourians have been completely vaccinated, according to data from the state’s health department. More than 58 percent have at least initiated vaccination. 

As the delta variant continues to cause concern across the country, including in Missouri, nearly 12,000 positive COVID-19 cases were reported in the past week along with 32 deaths. About 1,800 people remain hospitalized with COVID-19, including more than 500 who are in the ICU.