Gov. Mike Parson announced new details about his plans to enforce social distancing in Missouri during his COVID-19 briefing Saturday, which include limits on gathering sizes, restaurants and care facilities. 

The order takes effect at 12:01 a.m. Monday and lasts until 12:01 a.m. April 6. The order can be extended by the director of Health & Senior Services as long as it does not last longer than the duration of Missouri’s state of emergency declaration, which is currently set to end May 15.

Also on Saturday, St. Louis City, St. Louis County and the Kansas City metropolitan area issued “stay-at-home” orders, which take effect next week. At this time, Parson has not indicated that he will issue such an order for the state.

Parson's order involves several directions, which he emphasized are in compliance with federal and CDC guidelines. They include:

  • A restriction of social gatherings of more than 10 people.
  • Closing restaurants, bars and food courts except for drive-thru, pickup and delivery options.
  • Restricting visitation at nursing homes, long-term care facilities, retirement homes or assisted living homes except to provide critical assistance.
  • Schools remaining closed.

The order does not prohibit people from visiting grocery stores, gas stations, parks or banks as long as 6-foot social distancing is practiced, with exceptions for family members. Social gatherings are defined as planned or spontaneous events that would bring 10 or more people into a single space at the same time.

When asked about potential exemptions for religious services, which Parson announced at Friday’s briefing, Parson said the state will explore the issue further in the coming days. Parson said there are alternatives to going to church on Sundays but added that churches play an important role in community outreach and can be a valuable tool moving forward.

Parson also addressed the issue of child care in the state. Under the Missouri Department of Health & Senior Services, changes are being made to the child care facilities. While schools are closed, licensed child care providers are able to utilize the rules regarding emergency school closing, which include allowing facilities to exceed their licensing capacity by one-third and to extend their hours of operation.

Parson was joined by several state agency directors who also announced new changes.

Department of Social Services

Acting Director of the Missouri Department of Social Services Jennifer Tidball announced new action DSS is taking to address food insecurity in Missouri.

Tidball announced that under federal law, Missouri families currently eligible for SNAP benefits will receive the maximum allotment for their household size during the months of March and April. Additionally, families already eligible for free and reduced lunch programs will automatically receive an additional temporary SNAP benefit for March, April and May.

Department of Revenue

Department of Revenue Director Ken Zellers announced changes to the state’s tax filing deadlines and license renewal procedures.

Mirroring federal IRS guidelines, DOR is providing tax filing and payment relief to individuals and corporations. This includes:

  • Extending the deadline to file income tax returns from April 15 to July 15.
  • Extending the deadline for income tax payments for individuals and corporate income returns from April 15 to July 15.

These changes apply to returns filed by individuals, C corporations and trusts or estates and include estimated tax payments due April 15.

The Department of Revenue is also implementing automatic extensions for expiring driver’s licenses and motor vehicle registration, effective immediately, in an attempt to alleviate congestion in licensing offices.

People with driver’s licenses or license plates that expire in March or April will have a two-month extension and will be allowed to use their vehicles on roadways without penalties until they can apply for renewal.

Department of Public Safety

Department of Public Safety Director Sandy Karsten announced that DPS fulfilled 123 facility orders of PPE, or personal protective equipment, out of the Strategic National Stockpile.

Karsten said the department received guidance from FEMA to encourage law enforcement and fire to order PPE from their regular vendors and to buy on the open market, but said that agencies will be eligible for reimbursement.

Regarding 911 calls, Karsten said it is “acceptable” for dispatchers to ask people about COVID-19, including medications, travel, exposure, and positive test results, in order to keep first responders safe.

As of 9 p.m. Saturday, the Missouri Department of Health & Senior Services has reported 90 positive cases in the state.

For more COVID-19 related news, see our section dedicated to COVID-19 updates.
  • Spring 2020 state government reporter. I am a senior studying data journalism. I can be reached by email at ashlynohara@mail.missouri.edu or on Twitter at @ashlyn_ohara.

  • Galen Bacharier is an assistant city editor at the Missourian. He has previously reported on state government and higher education. He can be reached at gbacharier@mail.missouri.edu.

  • Mark Horvit is the state government editor. Call me at 817-726-1621 with story ideas, tips or complaints.

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