Gov. Mike Parson announced Monday that state office buildings will be closed to the public and nonessential personnel starting Tuesday.
The announcement follows new statewide social distancing orders that Parson announced last week.
As of 2 p.m. Monday, the state reported 183 positive cases of COVID-19 in Missouri, though numbers sometimes lag as a result of tests conducted in commercial labs.
Monday evening, the Missouri Department of Corrections (MODOC) released an email saying it has received notification that an offender has tested positive for COVID-19. It is the first reported case of COVID-19 among MODOC offenders. There are no reported cases of COVID-19 among staff, the email said.
The offender is being treated at a Kansas City area hospital, where he was admitted March 19. No other offenders have had contact with the infected offender since March 4, the release said.
The governor’s order covers some 300 leased office buildings and 36 state-owned office buildings, according to Sarah Steelman, the commissioner of the state Office of Administration.
The only people who will be allowed to access these buildings are “essential personnel,” as determined by cabinet directors who will inform their employees. Steelman said that as of Monday, almost 15,000 state employees are working remotely.
Parson also signed an executive order Monday that will allow restaurants to sell unprepared food to the public.
“We hope this will not only assist restaurants financially during this time and avoid unnecessary waste but also help meet the increased demand for food across the state,” Parson said. “Many of you have seen bare grocery store shelves. I want to assure you this is a demand issue, not a supply issue.”
Sandy Karsten, director of Missouri Department of Public Safety, also gave updates on the status of personal protective equipment, or PPE, in Missouri. PPE includes things like gowns, masks, shields, goggles and gloves used by medical personnel and first responders.
“Everyone that uses PPE needs more of it,” Karsten said. “I can tell you that we are pursuing PPE from all available sources and working to turn it around and ship to those who need it as soon as possible.”
On Saturday, Karsten recommended that law enforcement and fire safety agencies continue to buy PPE from their normal suppliers or on the open market. The first shipment of what Karsten said last week would total hundreds of thousands of PPE materials for law enforcement and fire services arrived Monday but was just 200 sets of protective goggles. Karsten said they expect to receive more PPE for first responders over the next 10 days, to be shipped across the state “as soon as possible.”
Karsten said that agencies are currently trying to access more PPE through:
- Disaster funds for the state of Missouri.
- Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
Chlora Lindley-Myers, director of the Missouri Department of Commerce and Insurance, also announced approved waivers related to licensing for health care services, including allowing healthcare providers to use Telehealth to treat patients.
Among other things, the letter requested that Parson close schools until “probably the end of the school year,” limit gatherings to 10 people or less and close all retail establishments that don’t sell groceries, fill prescriptions or are gas stations.
“If things progress as is, COVID-19 patients will deplete the state’s available hospital beds, ventilators, and precious personal protection equipment,” the letter reads. “Any additional time without a ‘shelter-in-place’ requirement wastes crucial healthcare resources, including manpower.”
At the Monday briefing, Parson said the state is not prepared to enact a “shelter-in-place” order. He did say people should abide by his social distancing order.
“When you start talking about shutting the state down for 30 days, 60 days or 90 days, the effects that has on the everyday people are dramatic,” Parson said. “That means businesses will close, people will lose their jobs, the economy will be in worse shape than ever … .
“It is important to me right now to do this day by day.”