Gov. Mike Parson said Tuesday that COVID-19 hospitalizations have seen a decrease throughout most of the state as he continues to plan to begin reopening the state’s economy in early May.
Since Saturday, all regions have seen a decline in both positive COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, with the exception of the St. Louis area. That region has seen an 8% increase, which Missouri health department director Randall Williams attributed to the prevalence of the virus in that area, as it was where the first Missouri patient was diagnosed.
As of Tuesday, there have been 7,303 positive cases of COVID-19 and 314 deaths because of the virus, according to state health data. The state reported 26 more deaths Tuesday, the highest daily jump for Missouri except for a previous data anomaly.
Parson continues to move forward with his Show Me Strong Recovery Plan, which goes into effect Monday.
There are four pillars to the plan, which was unveiled Monday — expanding testing capacity, expanding reserves of personal protective equipment, expanding health care capacity if necessary and improving the ability to predict outbreaks.
Daniel Mehan, CEO of the Missouri Chamber of Commerce, acknowledged Tuesday that many Missouri manufacturers have taken the initiative to change their operations to supply the state with personal protective equipment.
Another goal is to monitor and, if necessary, expand hospital and health care system capacity, including isolation and alternate care facilities for those who cannot self-quarantine at home.
Parson emphasized several times Tuesday that Missouri hospitals are currently able to handle the increased intake of patients.
“Data shows the Missouri health care system is under control, which is why we have made the decision to move forward in reopening the state on May 4,” Parson said.
As businesses prepare to reopen, a critical concern to protect employees and patrons was noted.
The Missouri Chamber of Commerce released a “return to work” guide based on best safe working practices around the country, which includes continuing the practice of social distancing.
Gary Ward, MU vice chancellor for operations, reminded employees Tuesday that the university’s work-from-home directive continues regardless of whether the city and state relax restrictions.
In a campus email, Ward said that until further notice, “no one may physically work on the Mizzou campus or in the UM System offices unless they are requested to do so by an appropriate supervisor.”
Ray McCarty, president of Associated Industries of Missouri, said 97% of businesses agreed to require sick employees to stay home, 98% agreed to frequent hand-washing and 98% agreed to frequent cleaning of commonly used items.
These were all issues included in the governor’s reopening order.
“Returning to work is step one, but with 400,000 Missourians facing unemployment, it will not be easy,” Mehan said.
Mehan said Missouri businesses are expected to lose a quarter of their revenue this year and that 15% will go out of business as a result of the pandemic.
McCarty also said the state’s economy is not like a light switch — it can’t just be easily turned back on.
Instead, the economy is more comparable to a water hose — it will take some time, but eventually the economy will be back to “normal.”
“Reopening Missouri will not just be the flip of the switch,” Parson said.
“This virus is still out there, and we must continue to remain good social distancing and everyone take precautionary steps to keep everyone safe.”