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Parson issues ‘public health warning’ to communities as COVID cases climb

  

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Missouri Gov. Mike Parson released a new public health warning Thursday outlining suggestions to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

“Missouri and the Midwest region remain central to the extreme COVID-19 outbreak our country is currently experiencing,” Parson said. “If we do not slow the spread of the virus, our health care system will quickly become overwhelmed. This creates a major risk not only for COVID-19 patients but anyone requiring health care support, from emergency situations such as car accidents to the treatment of serious health conditions such as cancer.” 

The guidance, published by the Department of Health and Senior Services, outlined expectations for all individuals working and living within Missouri as the winter months see increased cold, flu, and COVID-19 cases. The document included action plans based on three categories: personal behavior, business, and travel.

For individuals, the state advised wearing a mask at all times in public where social distancing is not possible, maintaining at least six feet distance from other individuals for periods of 15 minutes or less, isolating if experiencing symptoms of the virus, and limiting interactions to a small group of 10 or less including friends, family, and coworkers. 

For businesses, the state advised adjusting workplaces for social distancing, adhering to disease response plans, and monitoring employees for symptoms. Businesses were encouraged to allow employees to work from home and split shifts, limit areas where workers interact, and ensure flexible sick-leave policies.

Finally, the document suggested limiting travel outside of Missouri and advised health precautions for any trips taken over the holidays. Missourians were encouraged to self-isolate before traveling, especially around those at higher risk of complications from the virus, and stay home if experiencing symptoms.

Parson told reporters Thursday the document was a list of suggestions rather than a state order, maintaining his stance on local control and individual precautions. 

“Missouri is at a turning point, and if we are going to change the outcome, we must change our behavior,” he said. 

The document also contained a local government advisory, outlining expectations for communities at various levels of risk.

Counties at “extreme risk” — those that experience a seven-day positivity rate of 15 percent or above — were advised to limit groups to 10 or less with masks suggested for any situation where social distancing cannot be accommodated. 

Counties at a 10-14 percent positivity rate, classified as “critical risk,” were advised to limit groups to 25 people with masks recommended for places with more than 10 people.

“Serious risk” counties, reporting a 5-9 percent positivity rate, were advised to limit groups to a size that allows social distancing and masks for groups of more than 10.

Parson extended Missouri’s state of emergency through March 31, 2021, noting hospitals were beginning to see staffing and capacity issues as positive case rates rose throughout the state. 

At least 257,822 Missourians have tested positive for COVID-19 as of Thursday morning, and 3,507 people have died. Over the past seven days, more than 27,000 new cases have been identified with a positivity rate of 23.7 percent. More than 2,400 Missourians are hospitalized, including 582 in the ICU and 298 on ventilators.