Missouri’s statewide stay-at-home order to cool the coronavirus pandemic will continue to early May and the economy will reopen after that time, Gov. Mike Parson said Thursday during his daily news briefing.
The Missouri stay-at-home order, previously set to expire April 24, will be extended through May 3, Parson said. After that, he said he expects the state to be able to test 10,000 people each day and have the ability to respond quickly to new COVID-19 hotspots as they develop.
"We have got to develop that trust with the public and I think the public is going to respond by going out and opening back up the economy," Parson said.
Parson’s announcement came after news that Kansas City, the state’s largest city, will keep its restrictions in place until May 15, as will Independence in Jackson County. St. Louis County will extend them indefinitely.
There is no word on whether the order set to expire April 24 in Columbia and Boone County will be extended or modified. Lucio Bitoy, the city communications department employee assigned to the Department of Public Health and Human Services, told the Tribune in an email that he was "not aware of any available updates."
The Department of Health and Senior Services reported 216 new COVID-19 infections on Thursday, with 147 of the new cases in the state’s two largest metropolitan areas. The state now has confirmed 5,111 infections through testing. The state has recorded 152 deaths, up five from Wednesday.
It was the fourth day this week that the state reported fewer than 250 new infections, after a week when the average each day was about 250 and two days exceeded 300 new cases.
"I think we're getting a good handle on where we're at now with statistical information that we finally got that just has strictly to do with Missouri," Parson said. "And I truly believe we're at the curve. As a matter of fact, I am optimistic to think we may be going past the curve and maybe we are headed on the downward slope."
The decisions in Independence and Kansas City came after public health officials on both sides of the border in the Kansas City metro area recommended Wednesday that the order be extended three weeks, the Independence Examiner reported.
Parson's order requires people to stay home unless they're getting necessities like food and medical care and stay 6 feet away from non-family members when they're out of the house.
Notably, it does not require so-called "non-essential" businesses like gyms and clothing stores to close unless local authorities say otherwise.
To reopen the state, Parson said, the state health lab and private laboratories must be able to handle 10,000 tests a day. The state health department has been reporting the results of about 1,600 to 2,000 tests a day for the past week.
The state must also expand its reserves of protective equipment for health care workers and first responders, monitor the level of hospitalizations and improve its ability to predict and respond to outbreaks, Parson said.
"The truth is this virus is going to be around for several more months," Parson said. "People are going to continue to get sick. People are going to continue to die from this virus. But, you know, we’ve got to make sure we get all the care we can and protect people, and to be able to do that, but we have also got to be able to open up the economy and do both at the same time."
The economic impact of the pandemic has been enormous, both for the state and the nation.
Almost 340,000 Missourians filed for unemployment in late March and early this month, including 101,000 last week.
The extension for Kansas City was announced by Mayor Quinton Lucas, who said the city's stay-at-home mandate will remain in effect until mid-May.
The extension applies only to Kansas City. Jackson County and other surrounding counties have not yet said whether they will extend their orders.
The extended orders announced by St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson and St. Louis County Executive Sam Page have no end date, but both said they’ll re-evaluate in mid-May.
Krewson said during her own news conference that removing shelter-in-place restrictions runs the risk of creating a new wave of illnesses.
"It is important for all of us right now to stay the course — continue to stay at home as much as possible," Krewson said.
Springfield Mayor Ken McClure said Wednesday he would be issuing an updated emergency proclamation next week as the city and Greene County begin to focus on "recovery."
He said he could not yet offer specifics, though he noted it would likely not include an immediate return to business as usual.
As of Thursday, there was least one confirmed COVID-19 infection in 94 of the 117 local health department jurisdictions that report to the state.
Deaths have been reported in 27 counties.
State data shows the major growth in cases continues to be in the major metropolitan areas. There are 2,026 cases in St. Louis County, an increase of 88 from Wednesday, and 706 in the city of St. Louis, an increase of six. There are 405 cases in St. Charles County, up 13 from Wednesday.
On the other side of the state, Kansas City added 15 cases to bring its total confirmed cases to 386, and Jackson County outside the city had 260, an increase of 17 from Wednesday.
Boone County’s local confirmed case count was 85 on Thursday, down one from Wednesday, with the state report showing 92 cases, two more than Wednesday.
The count in Greene County increased by 3 to 81.
Three more nursing home residents have died from COVID-19. Franklin County Presiding Commissioner Tim Brinker said two women in their 90s died after contracting the illness at Grandview Healthcare in Washington, bringing the number of victims from that nursing home to six.
St. Charles County officials said a man in his 80s from Frontier Health & Rehabilitation has become the seventh victim from the St. Charles facility.
The county with the most cases outside the state’s four largest metropolitan areas is Saline County, which recorded five new cases on Thursday, bringing its total to 49.
In central Missouri, the number of cases identified in Moniteau County doubled from six to 12 on Thursday. In other central Missouri counties, counts remained stable, with Cole County reporting 41 cases, Callaway County with 20, Randolph County with eight, Cooper County with four and Howard County with two. All are unchanged from Wednesday.
Audrain County has not reported any infected people.
The state had recorded 51,545 tests in state and commercial labs through Thursday afternoon.
In Columbia, MU Health Care’s testing service had completed 3,915 tests, with 105 positive results. Boone Hospital Center has performed 1,094 tests, with 18 positive results.
Nationally, the period from late Wednesday to early Thursday afternoon was the deadliest yet for the COVID-19 pandemic. There have been 31,628 reported deaths from the infection, an increase of 3,778 since Wednesday afternoon.
The U.S. now has more than 654,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus.
Worldwide, the virus is known to have infected more than 2.1 million people and is blamed for 142,148 deaths.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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