Updated 6:25 p.m., April 3
Missouri Gov. Mike Parson issued a statewide stay-at-home order on Friday to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
The order goes into effect on Monday, April 6, and remains in place until Friday, April 24.
Parson, a Republican, experienced mounting pressure from top Democrats, local officials and medical groups throughout the state to put an order in place. Parson maintained for weeks that the decision should be left up to community leaders. At his press briefing Friday evening, he said the decision weighed heavily on his mind.
“It is having the power of governor to pick winners and losers,” he said. “And whether I feel it is appropriate for me to use the power by determining who is essential and who is not. This power is something I think should be rare for government.”
Over 100,000 people have filed for unemployment in our state, and I’m sure they would all tell you their jobs were essential. Many orders were put into place in many states and many cities without thinking about the unintended consequences.”
The order requires Missourians to avoid leaving their homes and to continue avoiding social gatherings of more than 10 people.
Essential businesses will remain open throughout the duration of the stay-at-home order, but social distancing recommendations are still in place.
Parson’s order also states that essential businesses should limit the number of individuals to 25% or less of the fire or building code for a location with less than 10,000 square feet or 10% for buildings that are larger. He laid out this framework because he said essential businesses have now become “hotbeds” for the virus.
“By tightening these exemptions that have led to the unintended funnel effect, my order goes further than any directive in the state,” Parson said.
Both large cities and counties and small communities throughout the state have made the decision to issue their own stay-at-home orders. Parson said if local officials would like to tighten regulations on this order in their specific communities, they may.
Missouri is one of the last states to put such an order in place.
House Minority Leader Crystal Quade, D-Springfield, said Parson should have acted faster.
“While the governor kept insisting urban and rural areas must be treated differently for economic reasons, the truth is we are all at risk regardless of where we live,” Quade said. “This decision is necessary, and if it had been done sooner, fewer Missourians would be at risk.”
Parson took no questions at the press conference announcing the order.
On Tuesday, Parson’s expected Democratic challenger in the 2020 gubernatorial race, state Auditor Nicole Galloway, called on the governor to issue a statewide order. In an emailed statement, Galloway said, in part: “Failure to address the immediate threat to public health will undermine our economic recovery. Public health experts, front-line hospital workers and medical professionals have provided clear guidance on what our state needs to do to make it through this crisis.”
In response to Galloway, Parson said, “The state auditor should be worrying about being the state auditor right now.” He said there would be plenty of time to “play politics” later.
Governor, I was elected by voters to act in their best interest and be their voice. Bipartisan leaders, doctors, nurses, and businesses are all calling for this. Let’s agree saving lives should be our top priority. Please listen to them and act. https://t.co/tyA9refElX
— Nicole Galloway, CPA (@nicolergalloway) March 31, 2020
Parson issued a state of emergency on March 13 and directed the Department of Health and Senior Services to put a social distancing order in place beginning on March 23. The order, which was set to end on Monday, instructed Missourians to avoid gatherings with more than 10 people and to refrain from eating or drinking inside restaurants and bars.
As of March 19, all public and private schools in Missouri have closed. Parson left that decision up to individual districts. With this order, all schools must remain closed until Friday, April 24.
Also this week, Parson said he’s expecting a $500 million budget shortfall this year due to economic effects of COVID-19. In response, he’s cutting $180 million in planned spending from several state departments. The Department of Higher Education and Workforce Development is expected to see the largest cut.
Parson is expecting roughly $315 million from the federal stimulus package to help makeup for the rest of the shortfall.
As of Friday afternoon, Missouri has more than 2,000 positive cases of the virus and 19 deaths. The state has tested roughly 21,200 people.
Follow Jaclyn on Twitter: @DriscollNPR
Reporter Eric Schmid contributed to this article: @EricDSchmid
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