ST. LOUIS (AP) — Missouri’s unemployment rate more than doubled last month due to the shutdown caused by the coronavirus, state officials said Friday.
Still, Missouri’s jobless rate of 9.7 percent was well below the national rate of 14.7 percent.
The Missouri Department of Economic Development released its April jobs report that spelled out the devastating impact of the halt to the economy that was part of the effort to slow the spread of COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus.
Missouri’s seasonally adjusted jobless rate rose to 9.7 percent in April, compared with 3.9 percent in March, when it had already started to rise because of the pandemic. The agency said it was the state’s largest-ever unemployment rate increase.
SPIKE IN NEW CASES
The state health department reported on Friday 218 new confirmed cases of the coronavirus, bringing the total to 11,558 since the pandemic began. That was the largest one-day total since 319 cases were reported on May 1. Ten new deaths brought that total to 671.
HELP FOR NURSING HOMES
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on Friday began distributing more than $165 million in federal relief funds to skilled nursing facilities across Missouri.
Since the start of this year, skilled nursing facilities nationwide have seen a 6 percent decline in patient population as residents chose other care settings or died from the virus, HHS said.
The department said the funding could be used for critical needs such as labor, increasing testing capacity, acquiring personal protective equipment and other expenses directly connected to the pandemic.
CAPE GIRARDEAU BLOOD STUDY
A blood sample study in southeastern Missouri seems to confirm that many people have had the coronavirus but not realized it.
The Cape Girardeau Public Health Center studied blood samples collected last week from 1,845 county residents, in search of coronavirus antibodies, the Southeast Missourian reported. Preliminary results showed that 16 participants had the antibodies. Based on the study, it’s possible that more than 650 of the county’s 79,000 residents could have had COVID-19 and not known it, health center officials said.
HOSPITAL WORKERS REUSING MASKS
N95 masks are meant for one-time use, but the shortage of the protective masks is forcing front-line workers at Mercy hospitals in Missouri and three other states to use them for three shifts in a row.
Mercy spokesman Joe Poelker confirmed to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that the three-time reuse policy was instituted across its hospitals in early April to help preserve the supply. The tight-fitting masks have filtration materials capable of blocking 95 percent of particles transmitted in the air by coughs, sneezes and medical procedures.
Federal crisis guidelines recommend storing the masks for at least five days in between shifts.
Mercy, based in suburban St. Louis, operates hospitals in Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Kansas.
WORKERS RELUCTANT TO RETURN
Jana Franklin is ready to reopen her three St. Louis-area Jimmy John’s franchises, but convincing staff to return is proving difficult.
Franklin told the Post-Dispatch that she was forced to lay off about two dozen workers when dining rooms closed as part of the coronavirus shutdown. When she reaches out asking them to return, “It’s crickets,” she said.
The emergency response to the pandemic supplemented state unemployment programs with $600 weekly payments for displaced workers. In Missouri, payments can reach as high as $920 before taxes, and some workers have said they’re making more money by not working.
Missouri is asking employers to report workers who refuse to return, allowing the state to remove them from unemployment rolls. Franklin is still weighing how to handle that request.