Today, Governor Mike Parson signed Executive Order 2002 declaring a state of emergency in Missouri in response to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).
Governor Parson announced the emergency declaration in a press conference on Friday. The following individuals were also present at the press conference:
Dr. Randall Williams, Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) Director
Bill Whitmar, President-Elect of the State Public Health Laboratories
Dr. Carolyn Henry, Dean of the University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine
Bob Hughes, President, and CEO of the Missouri Foundation for Health
Jim Remillard, Acting Director of the Missouri State Emergency Management Agency
“As Governor, I have no greater responsibility than to keep all Missourians healthy and safe,” Governor Parson said. “After further consideration, we have decided that declaring a state of emergency is the next appropriate step to protect public health.”
The Executive Order was not made because the current healthcare system is overwhelmed or unprepared, and it is not intended to close public schools. Schools administrators should seek the guidance of local health officials when thinking about closing their schools.
Rather, 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. By signing this Executive Order, Governor Parson invoked the Missouri State Emergency Operations Plan.
Executive Order 20-02 will enable Governor Parson to waive certain state laws and regulations where necessary and direct state agencies to report any unfair market practices. Declaring the state of emergency will also provide access up to a combined total of approximately $7 million in state funds beyond the federal funds Missouri expects to receive.
“Governor Parson’s actions taken today support our public health preparations here in Missouri that we have been working on daily since January 27,” said DHSS Director Dr. 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.
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 (PPE) for responders outside of healthcare. 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.
Finally, Governor Parson believes Missouri will have the capability to deploy temporary structures in coordination with the Missouri State Emergency Management Agency and the Missouri National Guard should the need arise.
“My administration will continue to monitor the situation and all options available to provide the necessary resources,” Governor Parson said.
As of today, 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 50-60 years of age. Additional details on the second case will be shared with the public as soon as all notifications have been made.
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.