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Parson to decide soon on reopening Missouri businesses

(AP) — Gov. Mike Parson said Wednesday that he was close to deciding when to reopen the state economy, which has been largely frozen to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

The governor, a Republican, was among the last to impose a statewide stay-at-home order. It went into effect April 6 and runs through April 24. Parson said in a news conference Wednesday that his decision on the future of the order was imminent.

“I think we’re all going to move forward with this as soon as we can and we’re preparing for that day, to be able to move the economy forward,” Parson said. “We’ll be able to say more on that in the near future.”

Even if the statewide order is allowed to expire, stay-at-home orders could remain in place in and around the state’s two biggest cities, where leaders say regional decisions could come this week.

St. Louis, Kansas City and their suburbs invoked stay-at-home orders several days before Parson’s statewide order.

St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson said Tuesday via Twitter: “While we haven’t officially decided to extend our stay at home past April 22, it is something we must consider. And we have to do it guided by science, data & professional expertise from our regional healthcare/hospital partners. We can’t let up now.”

She reiterated that stance Wednesday afternoon in a livestream on her Facebook page.

St. Louis County Executive Sam Page said St. Louis regional leaders and medical experts had been in talks.

“I would expect from those discussions that the stay-at-home order will be extended into May, but I’m not prepared to give you a specific date,” said Page, a Democrat.

St. Louis County, the state’s most populous county with 1 million residents, has been hit harder by the coronavirus than anyplace else in Missouri. The county has reported 1,811 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 58 deaths from the disease caused by the virus.

Kansas City’s health director, Dr. Rex Archer, told KCUR that public health and elected officials would recommend this week a plan for when to allow nonessential businesses to reopen.

Archer, Krewson and Page agree that access to more testing is vital before restrictions can be eased.

But the top official in Franklin County expressed a desire to get businesses up and running again soon. Franklin County Presiding Commissioner Tim Brinker said his county had a re-entry plan that called for restaurants and personal care businesses to open as soon as April 25 if the statewide order was lifted.

Most infected people develop mild or moderate coronavirus symptoms that clear up within three weeks, such as fever and cough. But older adults and people with existing health problems are particularly susceptible to more severe illness, including pneumonia.

Missouri’s death toll from COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, went up by 16 on Wednesday, for a total of 153, according to data Wednesday from Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Systems Science and Engineering, which has been tracking cases worldwide. Johns Hopkins also cited 4,784 cases in Missouri, which was 253 more than the 4,531 cases reported Tuesday.

State officials announced that Missouri would be getting more than $360 million in federal stimulus money.

Parson said Missouri would receive $152.4 million for 75 airports. St. Louis Lambert International Airport will get $60 million of that, and Kansas City International will receive $43.3 million. Airports in the Springfield-Branson area, Cape Girardeau, Columbia and Joplin also are receiving more than $1 million each.

The state’s education commissioner, Margie Vandeven, said Missouri would receive $208 million in federal funds to help grades K-12. The money will be used to “address the digital divide” and challenges caused by school closures.

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