CLAYTON, Mo. – Reporters pressed Missouri’s governor and the St. Louis County Executive during a press conference to announce the work done by a local task force assigned to nursing homes is being taken state-wide. They asked about Governor Mike Parson’s plan to extend Phase One of reopening into the middle of June, and mail-in voting. County Executive Sam Page answered questions about why the region’s response to the pandemic has been so different than the rest of the state.
St. Louis County’s long-term care facilities were hit hard by the coronavirus. A task force has been assigned to check on them to provide testing, PPE, and treatment. They have distributed tens of thousands of masks. Missouri is working to emulate this quick response task force state-wide. It is becoming a national model to help treat seniors.
Missouri has been working to identify hotspots for coronavirus. Nursing homes, jails, and food processing plants have been a focus for the state. They are working to expand testing in Missouri to help identify cases and treat sick people.
Gov. Parson says that the state is working on a balance to open the economy before a vaccine is available. This means that efforts to fight the spread of COVID-19 will need to be smarter. They now have a lot more information about where the virus typically spreads, who is likely to get it, and how coronavirus makes people sick. All of this data is helping them identify how we can move forward while staying safe.
But, there are questions about why the governor extended phase one of reopening in the state of Missouri until June 15. Gov. Parson says that he does not want regions of Missouri to have different rules for reopening. The regions around St. Louis and Kansas City have a much more cases of coronavirus than the rest of Missouri.
“The St. Louis area is on the right track. We know by the hospital beds and the ventilators that this region was affected more than most,” said Gov. Parson. “St. Louis and Kansas City need to be cautious. We had a big Memorial Day weekend.”
“St. Louis County is a different situation than the rest of the state. It is appropriate for us to have different standards and guidelines. But, many businesses and venues should be open by the middle of June, with restrictions and guidelines,” said County Executive Page.
Phase 2 will allow the maximum number of people gathering in one area to shift from 10 people to 50 people. Businesses like restaurants, bars, places of worship, gyms, salons, and community centers may increase business to 50% capacity as long as safe social distancing can be maintained.
Elections in Missouri have been postponed until June after an executive order from the governor. A Missouri municipal election will take place on June 2. Missouri lawmakers sent a bill to the governor to expand mail-in and absentee voting for the August and November 2020 election.
Gov. Parson says that Missouri has a system in place for absentee voting. But, will the process for mail-in voting change for August and November? He says that his legal team is looking at modifying that process. The system they are proposing may be similar to the way that the military uses to vote.
The governor was asked about people upset that St. Louis County has more rules for staying at home than the rest of the state.
“There are consequences to elections,” said Gov. Parson. “But, people on the ground have to make those decisions. I support local control.”
A video went viral last weekend showing people partying at the Lake of the Ozarks. The large crowd was clearly not practicing social distancing.
“I don’t think you do stop it. People have to be responsible for their actions,” said Gov. Parson.
How concerned is St. Louis County Executive Dr. Sam Page about protests like the ones in Minnesota here?
“If people want to protest peacefully then we will support that. If they don’t, then I will leave that to our police departments,” said Page.