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Special session distracts from coronavirus, Quade says


JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — House Minority Floor Leader Crystal Quade called the special session on violent crime a distraction from what she said is a more pressing issue at hand: the COVID-19 pandemic.

“When Gov. Mike Parson first called this special legislative session, it was clear that the purpose was not to address violent crime, but to change the subject from his disastrous leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Quade said. “It seems Gov. Parson may need a reminder that when we discuss COVID-19, we should be thinking about more than just numbers; we should be looking at faces.”

Quade was joined by a number of Democratic representatives and speakers for a press conference Tuesday afternoon urging Parson and other state leaders to focus on mitigating the virus. Rep. Joe Runions, who tested positive for the virus in March, spoke on the lasting effects of the virus, saying it took three weeks after returning home from the hospital to begin to recover, and a further three weeks before he tested negative. 

Runions called for a statewide mask mandate to mitigate the spread of the virus and urged the governor and his staff to lead by example. 

“What’s frustrating for me, we’re here dealing with a bill on violent crime that does nothing to prevent violent crime, is that a year ago when the Missouri Legislative Black Caucus and the House Democrats asked for a special session to deal with violent crime, the governor said he needed to stay in his lane,” Quade said. “Here we are with thousands of Missourians dying, and this is when he decides its in his lane.”

Quade introduced Angela Kender, a St. Louis resident who lost her mother to the virus in June.

“There are over 160,000 families across the country with stories like my mom’s and mine, and over 1300 in Missouri,” Kender said. “It is clear, common sense to protect our communities and families by wearing masks. I am speaking out not only for those we have lost but for those we still stand to lose.”

Kender went on to call on the governor and lawmakers to take more definitive action, urging officials to mandate masks in public places, including schools.

“Missourians are dying due to terrible leadership and a distinct lack of policy,” she said. “The continued deaths are preventable, and that is why I am here today.”

Kender displayed the faces of Missourians lost to the virus on a banner held up by a trio of state representatives.

State representatives hold up a banner comporting Missourians who lost their lives to COVID-19. (THE MISSOURI TIMES/CAMERON GERBER)

Quade also introduced Julian Vizitei, a teacher from Kansas City and member of Missourians for Educational Change, who decried Republican leadership’s response to the virus and the effect it has had on educators. 

“I have teachers who are telling me about the choice they have to make: Go to school and risk their lives, or quit to protect themselves and their families and have their licenses pulled and face backlash from the education community,” he said. “Now we’re facing this issue. How many school staff have to die for this to change? We are facing a lack of state leadership.” 

Vizitei criticized the lack of mandates from the state regarding virtual education and masks during the spring semester and urged for clearer leadership in the future. He also touched on the lack of internet access for many students and educators forced to learn and work from home. 

Parson’s administration has largely focused on local control, and the governor has repeatedly said he would not push a statewide mask order despite a number of counties and cities passing mandates.

“I do not plan to put an order in from the Governor’s Office,” Parson told reporters in early July. “Again, for people that live in those places that want to live under those guidelines, that’s their elected leaders’ decisions.” 

“Every day in this press briefing we’ve told you if you cannot keep to 6 feet and social distancing, wear a mask,” Parson said. “If you feel comfortable, wear a mask. Everybody knows the situation out there, they know the risk categories right now. Everybody has to keep that in mind and move forward, but I don’t plan on mandating masks.”

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