“I want to assure Missourians that we are prepared,” Governor Parson said. “The overall trends in the data show that we have met the four pillars, and we are ready to safely reopen Missouri.”
The “Show Me Strong Recovery” Pillars are designed to give Missouri a benchmark for moving forward:
- Expand the testing capacity and volume in the state
- Expand reserves of PPE by opening public and private supply chains
- Continue to monitor and, if necessary, expand hospital and health care system capacity
- Improve ability to predict potential outbreaks using Missouri’s public health data
With the exception of the St. Louis region, the total number of COVID-19 hospitalizations has decreased significantly across the state.
Additionally, state data shows that the number of new positive COVID-19 cases have decreased steadily for Missouri overall. Especially promising is the decline of cases in rural counties where there have also been concerns of “hot spots” developing.
Missouri has also significantly expanded its testing capacity and continues to receive and ship PPE across the state each day. Just today, the SEMA warehouse received 134,000 bio-hazard bags that will allow for the safe disposal of contaminated PPE and other materials. In all, the state has ordered nearly $40 million worth of PPE and has already shipped approximately 2 million pieces of PPE to local partners, including nearly 300,000 N95 respirator masks, 450,000 face shields, and 200,000 surgical masks.
Additionally, the Battelle Critical Care Decontamination System will be able to decontaminate up to 80,000 respirators masks within 24 hours. The Missouri National Guard will be collecting contaminated masks from around the state, which will be decontaminated and made safe for re-use.
“As Monday approaches, I know many people are excited, but I want to remind everyone that this is not the flip of a switch,” Governor Parson said. “ Coronavirus is not gone, and we must continue to be proactive and maintain social distancing to protect not only ourselves but everyone around us.”
Missouri Office of Administration Commissioner Sarah Steelman and Missouri Department of Agriculture also joined today’s briefing to give an update on their respective departments.
Office of Administration
Throughout the COVID-19 crisis, state government has continued to operate at approximately 94 percent of its normal capacity. This percentage includes a measure of diminished services.
As of today, 14,930 state employees are working remotely. This represents approximately 40 percent of the state workforce. Another 21,771 state employees are physically present at work, including direct care workers, correction guards, nurses, caseworkers, and maintenance workers located throughout the state. There are approximately 3,915 state employees that cannot report to work, are on administrative leave, or are unavailable to work for other reasons.
Consistent with Governor Parson’s “Show Me Strong Recovery” Plan, the state will be reopening major office buildings throughout Missouri to the public beginning on Monday. Each department will be responsible for deciding which offices to open based on their unique circumstances.
Major office buildings are defined as buildings with 300 or more staff. Social distancing guidelines will be enforced, and the Missouri National Guard has agreed to help screen employees and the public upon entering the buildings.
Department of Agriculture
Throughout the COVID-19 crisis, the Department of Agriculture has been working with its partners across the state to keep Missouri’s food supply moving. Thanks to Missouri’s sophisticated food system, consumers have seen little impact in the grocery store.
However, COVID-19 has presented tremendous market disruptions across all sectors of the food chain. Director Chinn addressed recent information regarding milk dumping and food security:
- Milk dumping: Due to a rapidly changing demand, seasonal oversupply, and processing. As of early April, Missouri farmers were no longer dumping their milk.
- Food security: The state does not expect widespread food shortages at this time. However, there may be localized shortages of certain protein cuts or increased prices for some items.
Director Chinn also addressed the importance of protein processing plants throughout Missouri. In March, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security listed food and agriculture as critical infrastructure. On Wednesday, President Trump invoked the Defense Production Act to compel processors to remain open.
These actions show that providing food for families is a critical need, and the Department of Agriculture will continue to focus on the safety of protein processing facilities and employees in Missouri.
The COVID-19 crisis has challenged the food bank system. Yesterday, Midwest Dairy announced a donation of $500,000 to food banks in the Midwest to help meet the dairy demand at food banks and pantries during COVID-19.