(AP) — Gov. Mike Parson extended on Thursday Missouri’s statewide stay-at-home order through May 3, but pledged that the next day “people are going to go back to work” so the state’s economy can begin to recover from the coronavirus shutdown.
But most businesses won’t be reopening anytime soon in Missouri’s two urban areas. Democratic leaders of St. Louis, St. Louis County, Kansas City and Jackson County all announced Thursday that they were extending stay-at-home orders through at least mid-May.
Parson, a Republican, said it was imperative to get businesses back in operation and Missourians working again after weeks of forced closure aimed at stemming the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus.
“People are going to go back to work on May the fourth,” Parson said.
Parson was among the last governors to issue a stay-at-home order. Missouri’s order began April 6 and was set to expire April 24. St. Louis and Kansas City and their suburbs, along with several other counties, initiated their own shelter-in-place orders several days before that.
The extended orders announced by St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson and St. Louis County Executive Sam Page have no end date, but both said they’d re-evaluate in mid-May. Orders by Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas and Jackson County Executive Frank White Jr. require residents to stay at home, with exceptions for things such as grocery and supply trips or medical visits, through May 15.
Across the country, social isolation aimed at slowing the coronavirus has devastated the economy. Nearly 22 million Americans have sought unemployment benefits in the past month, by far the worst stretch of U.S. job losses on record. Backlash against restrictions has begun, including a protest in Michigan on Wednesday. A similar protest is planned in Jefferson City for next week.
Parson said that the stay-at-home order had been difficult but that the effort had worked: Projections now call for fewer cases and deaths than were originally feared. He said his program, which he called the “Show-Me Strong Recovery Plan,” acknowledged that work remained, including expanding testing capacity and coming up with more personal protective equipment.
“Our re-opening efforts will be careful,” Parson said. “They will be deliberate and done in phases. The timing may not look the same in every community. Our hardest-hit areas – like St. Louis, Kansas City – may take longer to fully recover. But we must be ready for a slow and steady recovery, with some sort of social distancing continued, even as we begin to reopen the economy.”
But Krewson said during her own news conference that removing shelter-in-place restrictions ran the risk of prompting a new wave of illnesses.
“It is important for all of us right now to stay the course — continue to stay at home as much as possible,” Krewson said.
The virus has killed 154 Missourians and the state has seen 5,142 confirmed cases, according to data from Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Systems Science and Engineering, which has been tracking cases worldwide. The case tally rose by 358, or 7.5 percent, from Wednesday.
More than half of the confirmed cases in Missouri, and 86 of the deaths, have been in St. Louis city and county.
Most infected people develop mild or moderate coronavirus symptoms, such as fever and cough, that clear up within three weeks. But older adults and people with existing health problems are particularly susceptible to more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.
Officials announced the deaths of three more nursing home residents. Franklin County Presiding Commissioner Tim Brinker said two women in their 90s died after contracting the illness at Grandview Healthcare in Washington, bringing the number of victims from that nursing home to six.
St. Charles County officials said a man in his 80s from Frontier Health & Rehabilitation had become the seventh victim from the St. Charles facility.