JEFFERSON CITY — One week before Thanksgiving Day, Gov. Mike Parson emphasized the rising number of COVID-19 cases in Missouri and the subsequent importance of each person’s responsibility in preventing the spread of the virus..
Parson signed an executive order Thursday, extending the COVID-19 state of emergency through March 31. He said he will not issue a statewide mask mandate or regulate Thanksgiving activities but encourages Missouri residents to be thoughtful about how they celebrate the holiday.
“I’m not going to mandate who goes in the front door of your home,” Parson said at his weekly briefing.
The governor said his own family’s Thanksgiving will look different this year, in order to avoid exposing at-risk family members to COVID-19.
“I will also tell you as a fellow Missouri citizen, with the holidays coming, such as Thanksgiving and Christmas around the corner — it’s all up to us, not government, but it’s up to me and you, to change the way we do (things),” Parson said.
Randall Williams, director of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, recommended smaller gatherings for the holidays.
Williams advised “semi-quarantining” for roughly five days before traveling for Thanksgiving, especially when traveling by plane or visiting people with potential comorbidities alongside COVID-19.
He also reminded Missouri residents to continue to social distance, wear masks whenever possible and hold gatherings outdoors.
Parson said the extended executive order will allow flexibility in deploying resources across the state as well as the use of the Missouri National Guard during the pandemic.
Parson sent out a public health advisory Thursday, highlighting COVID-19 cases across the state and issuing guidance for counties and local mayors.
Parson said that it comes down to local control and personal responsibility, not regulations from the state government, when dealing with the virus.
“I’m calling on every citizen of the state of Missouri, no matter where they’re from — rural Missouri or urban Missouri — to do just that,” Parson said.
The health advisory includes community-level guidance based on three categories — extreme, critical and serious risk. The governor’s office plans to work with local leaders across the state to implement the appropriate guidance in their communities.
The vaccine is near
Williams said five more Missouri sites have been approved for storage and distribution of the upcoming COVID-19 vaccine, bringing the total to 10 sites.
The Pfizer vaccine must be stored at -94 degrees Fahrenheit and will be administered in two doses, so Missouri residents will need to go to the vaccination sites. The Moderna vaccine will be stored at -4 degrees and is easier to distribute across the state.
Williams said he expects Pfizer to apply for an emergency use authorization under the FDA within the next few days, a process that will take roughly 10-14 days for approval. After that, the vaccine will be distributed in phases.
Cases continue to rise
According to the Nov. 15 White House Coronavirus Report, Missouri’s new COVID-19 cases have increased by 41% since the previous week. Additionally, 97% of Missouri counties have high levels of community transmission, placing them in the “red zone” for cases.
Parson said state leaders continue to look to “our four essential pillars” in fighting the pandemic: testing, PPE, hospital capacity and data.
He explained that hospital capacity and staffing remain among the state’s primary concerns.
Parson said he is considering various ways to support hospitals, such as calling on military medical personnel, utilizing nurses-in-training or bringing in health care workers from other states.