JEFFERSON CITY — As COVID-19 cases rise in Missouri, Gov. Mike Parson plans to stay in close communication with university presidents to monitor the fall semester.
Parson said during a news conference Wednesday that he wants to see schools — at all levels — remain open.
“Our colleges and universities are also off to a good start,” he said at Wednesday’s news briefing.
“We are closely monitoring the impact this is having on Missouri’s overall case growth and positivity rate,” Parson said. “We know there is a lot of concern right now regarding college students, but I want to assure you that our colleges and universities have plans in place, and we appreciate the hard work and leadership of our higher education administrators to keep their students and community as safe as possible.”
Parson said he held a conference call with leaders of the state’s four-year universities in early September to discuss the status of COVID-19.
“We received updates on the opening of fall semester, COVID-19 mitigation and testing protocols, as well as new and future testing breakthroughs that may be utilized in the near future,” he said.
Parson said university presidents and state government officials will continue to be in close communication to prepare for the potential distribution of new COVID-19 resources, including rapid testing options.
Parson also said state officials are assisting higher education institutions with the challenges of COVID-19 to limit the spread of the virus. He stated their assistance has been directed at testing and contact tracing, among other things.
Parson’s Democratic challenger for governor, Nicole Galloway, said Parson did not do enough earlier this year to prepare for the reopening of schools.
“Instead of getting the virus under control before students headed back to campus, the Governor did nothing,” said Galloway’s spokesperson Kevin Donohoe in a statement to the Missourian.
Parson also discussed violence in the state and said crime rates have escalated since the start of the pandemic.
The governor said 191 people have been murdered this year in St. Louis, more than the total victims in 2018 and almost the same number as all of 2019. On the other side of the state, Kansas City has 138 homicide victims, compared with the 104 victims in all 2019.
“Violent crime has been a problem in our state long before COVID-19, and we have seen it escalate even more in recent months,” Parson said.
He also talked about House Bill 46 and House Bill 66, two initiatives waiting to become law. House Bill 46 seeks to help to fill the gap of 140 polices officers needed in the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department by relaxing residency requirements for St. Louis public safety workers, the governor said. House Bill 66 would create a witness and victim protection program.
Earlier in the day, the governor announced a $1 million grant to the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis to extend a crime de-escalation initiative, called “Serving Our Streets.”