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Protesters at Capitol demand reopening; 16 new deaths reported

JEFFERSON CITY (AP) — Protesters gathered Tuesday outside the Missouri Capitol in Jefferson City to demand that the state reopen to business after weeks of government-imposed social distancing aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus.

The protest is among several that have been held around the U.S. over the past week. In Jefferson City, many of the several hundred protesters waved the American flag and chanted “USA! USA!” Some held signs. One read, “Enough is enough.” A sign on a car window stated, “I prefer dangerous liberty over peaceful slavery!”

The protest came on the same day that 16 new deaths from the coronavirus were reported in Missouri, bringing the total to 215, according to Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Systems Science and Engineering. The number of cases rose by 156 to 5,963.

Some of the protesters in Jefferson City wore protection on their faces, but many did not. Several also stood near each other, ignoring recommendations that people remain at least 6 feet apart. Some young children were present.

Gov. Mike Parson, a Republican, extended last week the statewide stay-at-home order to May 3, But he said that starting May 4, some businesses would be allowed to reopen, with some restrictions such as limits on the number of people allowed inside. But Democratic leaders in Kansas City, Jackson County, St. Louis and St. Louis County all extended stay-at-home orders until at least mid-May.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.

Among the latest deaths are 10 more people in the city of St. Louis. Nine of the victims were black, continuing an alarming trend that is being seen in many places across the U.S.

Thirty-two of the 40 people in St. Louis who have died from COVID-19, the virus caused by the coronavirus, were black. The city’s population is about evenly split between blacks and whites.

Jackson County will provide temporary emergency housing for homeless people who have tested positive for the coronavirus, the county’s executive, Frank White Jr., a Democrat, announced. The agreement with the Greater Kansas City Coalition to End Homelessness provides housing at the Salvation Army Kansas City Three Trails Camp for up to 12 weeks. County lawmakers approved $450,000 for the program on Monday.

“This emergency housing will help us slow the spread of COVID-19, while also providing some of our most vulnerable population a safe place to recover,” White said in a statement.

Hospitalizations for the coronavirus are on the rise in the St. Louis area. Dr. Alex Garza, head of the St. Louis Regional Pandemic Task Force, reported that hospitalizations at the region’s major hospital systems were up 60 percent from the beginning of April, reaching 757 on Monday. That total includes 196 patients in intensive care units and 142 on ventilators.

Projections show peak hospitalizations in the St. Louis area will occur about Saturday, Garza said.

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