Governor Parson Extends Missouri’s State of Emergency

Governor Mike Parson, during his Nov. 19 press briefing, focused on personal responsibility as the way to curb the COVID-19 pandemic in Missouri. His remarks focused on capacity of hospitals and current data.
During the briefing, Parson announced he has extended the current State of Emergency in Missouri until March 31, 2021. Also on Nov. 19, the Governor issued a Public Health Warning to Missourians.
To view Executive Order 20-19, click here. To view the public health warning, click here.
Parson signed Executive Order 20-19 on Nov. 19. Among the order’s provisions that continue from previous Executive Orders:
Suspending certain statutory and regulatory provisions related to telemedicine and motor carriers. Easing licensing requirements to eliminate barriers to the provision of healthcare services and other professions. Relating to teacher certification with regard to qualifying scores on exit exams and culminating clinical experience in terms of semester hours, weeks, and number of placements. Allowing the temporary suspension of prohibitions on the sale of unprepared foods by restaurants. Relating to the National Guard and its services.  The Governor said while hospital capacity is becoming a problem in Missouri, “staffing is the major issue, not so much bed space.” Working with the Missouri Hospital Association, state officials are looking at different avenues to boost the number of healthcare workers. Use of military personnel is an option, he said. Attempting to recruit healthcare workers into Missouri is also under consideration. “I am confident that the men and women who work in those hospitals will never give up. I want Missourians to know that,” Parson said. 
He said he is opposed to mandates being issued from his position as governor. As for Thanksgiving gatherings, “I am not going to mandate who goes in the front door of your home. Your private residence is your residence. That choice becomes yours. It’s a freedom. I truly believe in local control. With the holidays coming, it’s all up to us, not government.”
As for COVID-19 data, Parson noted the virus is everywhere. “It’s in our communities, in our families, in our businesses. It doesn’t know between urban areas and rural areas.” There were more cases in Missouri in October than in the total first eight months of the virus, he said, and the numbers are growing quickly. If we don’t change the behavior of how we conduct ourselves, the virus will continue to grow, Parson said. “Many people out there would like to say it’s government’s responsibility, but it’s not. It’s every person’s responsibility.”
Dr. Randall Williams, Director of the Department of Health and Senior Services, said Missouri is in a much different situation today than eight months ago, with more COVID-19 testing, not ventilating as many patients as was done in March and April, and with more therapeutics available to treat patients. Also, he noted great news about vaccines on the horizon. If all goes well, healthcare workers in Missouri can be vaccinated in December and January at 10 locations in Missouri, Williams said. He also cited an upbeat number that about 60 percent of Americans have said they want the vaccine when available.
However, at this time in November, the risk of getting COVID is the highest it has been, Williams said, as the positivity rates and hospitalizations are increasing in 49 U.S. states. Williams suggested: Be prepared to change your plans for this Thanksgiving. Quarantine for 5 days before traveling. Wear masks at all times when traveling. Outdoors events are better than indoors. Social distance. Wear a mask. Limit the size of the gathering.
The Governor ended his briefing, answering a few random questions.
He said the deadline for the General Assembly in special session to finish the state’s supplemental budget is probably mid-December. “We’re up against a timeline,” he said.
He emphasized, “We do believe masks are a vital factor in curbing the virus. But it’s a personal decision.”
He said the COVID-19 vaccination will be “much like the flu shot. As government, we’re not going to mandate people to take the vaccine. We’re not going to punish people because they don’t want to take a vaccine or believe in a vaccine.”
GOVERNOR ISSUES STATEWIDE PUBLIC HEALTH WARNING With flu season and winter on the horizon, respiratory illnesses will begin to spread more rapidly, and COVID-19 is following the same pattern. Due to these extreme risks, Governor Mike Parson issued a statewide public health warning on Nov. 19, outlining expectations for all individuals living and working in the state, including guidance for personal behavior, businesses, and travel. 
The health warning also includes community level guidance and action plans based on three risk categories – extreme risk, critical risk, and serious risk. According to a news release, the Governor’s Office will be communicating with mayors, county commissioners, and local leaders across the state to explain and help implement the appropriate guidance in their communities. 
It should be noted that given the minimal transmission of COVID-19 taking place in schools, especially those that have implemented mask mandates, the social gathering recommendations outlined in the health warning are not intended to limit in-person learning. 
Wearing a mask, social distancing, and proper hand hygiene remain the three major COVID-19 mitigation strategies. Other key guidance includes the following:  Limit interactions with others to less than 15 minutes  Limit regular group interactions to a small group (10 or less) of family members Minimize travel outside of Missouri Consider occupancy limits reflective of social distancing 
JACKSON COUNTY HEALTH ORDERS ISSUED Jackson County has joined Kansas City and St. Louis County in implementing new local health orders this week, lowering capacity at businesses and restricting gatherings to 10 persons or fewer. The order goes into effect at 12:01 a.m. on Friday, Nov. 20, and will remain in effect until it is extended, rescinded, replaced or amended. The order also applies to Wyandotte County, Kansas, in metropolitan Kansas City.
According to the order, unless otherwise noted, the following public gatherings are restricted in Jackson County:
Entertainment venues including auditoriums, arenas, banquet halls, cinemas, conference centers, concert halls, performance venues, sporting venues, stadiums and theaters. Recreational facilities and places of public amusement, including gyms, fitness and recreational centers, amusement parks, arcades, bingo halls, bowling alleys, casinos, night clubs, skating rinks, adult entertainment clubs, water parks and trampoline parks. Parties, informal gatherings, lectures, meetings, parades, fairs, festivals, sporting events and performances.
The order limits the number of individuals (staff and customers) in a facility, building or room to 50 percent of the lowest occupancy load on the certificate of occupancy of the facility, building or room in which the gathering is occurring and is only permissible:
If adequate social distancing of 6 feet or more can be maintained. If such social distancing cannot be maintained due to facility layout, the occupancy limit should be further reduced to allow for proper distancing. Masks or face coverings must always be worn. Proper personal protective equipment (such as masks and hand sanitizer) must be utilized.
In Jackson County, restaurants, taverns and all other such venues serving food and drink indoors, including public, private or membership-only venues, shall limit the number of occupants to no more than 50 percent of building occupancy and shall close no later than 10:00 p.m.
The guidelines also say indoor patrons must always be seated and masked, except when actively eating or drinking. Plus, indoor and outdoor parties are limited to eight or fewer persons, and parties shall be spaced with no less than 6 feet of distance between themselves and individuals from any other parties.
Other large public gatherings of people that are prohibited:
Large public gatherings are those with more than 10 people in attendance or anticipated to attend, both indoor and outdoor, except for governmental and judicial functions, healthcare facilities, private business or retail operations, religious and faith-based activities, weddings, and funerals. A “gathering” does not include normal operations at spaces where persons may be in transit or coming and going individually or in groups of less than 10 persons.

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