Gov. Mike Parson declared a state of emergency in Missouri in response to the novel coronavirus, COVID-19. Parson announced the emergency declaration in a press conference Friday, March 13.
“As governor, I have no greater responsibility than to keep all Missourians healthy and safe,” he said. “After further consideration, we have decided that declaring a state of emergency is the next appropriate step to protect public health.”
According to release from the governor's office, the executive order was issued because the current health care system is overwhelmed or unprepared, nor was it intended to close public schools.
"Schools administrators should seek the guidance of local health officials when thinking about closing their schools," states the release. "The purpose of Executive Order 20-02 is to allow more flexibility in utilizing resources and deploying them around the state where they are most appropriate."
The order will enable Parson to waive some state laws and regulations where necessary and direct state agencies to report any unfair market practices such as price gouging. Declaring the state of emergency will also provide access to approximately $7 million in state funds beyond the federal funds Missouri expects to receive.
“Gov. Parson’s actions taken today support our public health preparations here in Missouri that we have been working on daily since January 27,” said Department of Health and Senior Services Director Randall Williams. “This gives us a different set of resources that we will use to further our response at both the state and local level.”
In addition to the executive order, the state is also taking steps to expand COVID-19 testing capabilities through coordination with the University of Missouri and Washington University laboratories.
"The Missouri State Public Health Lab has shared a positive COVID-19 sample with Washington University, which will allow its lab to create a control and conduct testing in the near future. The state is currently in the process of doing the same with the University of Missouri," states the governor's office release. "This should increase testing capabilities in Missouri by thousands. Additionally, the Missouri State Public Health Lab will soon be receiving more tests from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, pushing its capacity to 1,600 patient tests."
The state is also working to address concerns regarding the availability of personal protective equipment for responders outside of health care. The governor’s office has been in communication with the Missouri Foundation for Health and will be working jointly with the organization to help identify funding gaps in services and equipment for vulnerable Missouri populations and communities.
In addition to these efforts, the state is also in the process of reviewing federal guidance allowing for additional flexibility in health insurance coverage and unemployment benefits.
Parson believes Missouri will have the capability to deploy temporary structures in coordination with the Missouri State Emergency Management Agency and Missouri National Guard should the need arise.
“My administration will continue to monitor the situation and all options available to provide the necessary resources,” he said.
As of Friday, two more individuals have tested presumptive positive for COVID-19 in Missouri. One of these individuals is a St. Louis County resident. It is a domestic travel-related case and the patient is 50 to 60 years of age.
The Missouri State Public Health Lab has tested a total of 94 individuals to date. These tests have resulted in 90 negatives, three presumptive positives and one confirmed positive.
"Gov. Parson made the smart and right decision today to protect Missourians against the spread of the coronavirus by declaring a state of emergency for Missouri," said Speaker of the House Elijah Haahr, Speaker Pro Tem John Wiemann and Majority Floor Leader Rob Vescovo in a release in response to the governor's action. "We support this precautionary yet important step that will enable health care providers and local health departments access to more resources. We stand ready to move quickly, if needed, to act on any emergency legislation to combat COVID-19."
The Missouri state of emergency came on the heels of national emergency declaration made by President Donald Trump Friday. According to the proclamation, as of Thursday, March 12, 1,645 people from 47 states have been infected with the virus that causes COVID-19.
"It is incumbent on hospitals and medical facilities throughout the country to assess their preparedness posture and be prepared to surge capacity and capability," states the proclamation.
Saying "national emergency" is "two very big words," Trump said designating the coronavirus crisis that way would allow him to get $50 billion to states, territories and localities "in our shared fight against this disease."