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56 COVID-19 deaths at Missouri veterans homes since Sept. 1

JEFFERSON CITY (AP) — Fifty-six residents of Missouri veterans homes have died of COVID-19 since Sept. 1, including 25 at one facility in southeastern Missouri.

Family members of residents at the state veterans home in Cape Girardeau, Mo., visit with loved ones by appointment and while social distancing.  Photo courtesy Missouri Veterans Homes – Cape Girardeau
A spokesman for the Missouri Veterans Commission said Wednesday that the deadliest outbreak was in Cape Girardeau, where 20 residents died in September and five more have died in October, through Monday.

Another veterans home, in the southwestern Missouri town of Mt. Vernon, has been the site of 13 resident deaths; 12 others died in St. James, and six more died in Warrensburg.

Thirty-eight of the deaths occurred in September, said Jamie Melchert, spokesman for the Missouri Veterans Commission.

Prior to September, the only confirmed coronavirus death in a Missouri veterans home was in April in north St. Louis County.

Gov. Mike Parson, a Republican, called for an external review of operations at the veterans homes on Oct. 2, but he didn’t say how many veterans had died. Melchert said the St. Louis law firm Armstrong Teasdale would handle the review.

During a visit to the Mt. Vernon Veterans Home on Sept. 15, Parson praised the commission.

“Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, we have been working hard to keep our most vulnerable citizens safe,” Parson said in a Facebook post. “Our Missouri Veterans Commission has set the standard nationwide for veteran homes.”

The first positive COVID-19 test at the Mt. Vernon Veterans Home was the next day, Sept. 16, Melchert has said.

Parson and his wife, Teresa, both tested positive for COVID-19 on Sept. 23 and have since recovered. A spokeswoman for the governor’s office said the office didn’t believe Parson contracted the virus during his visit to the home.

Missouri’s coronavirus dashboard was still down by late afternoon Wednesday, four days after it showed a massive spike in cases that officials blamed on “database extract error.”

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services has provided the dashboard linkable from its website since early on in the pandemic. It was upgraded Sept. 28 to offer more detailed information such as demographic data.

On Saturday, the dashboard showed a one-day increase of 5,066 new cases – nearly 3,000 more than the previous one-day high. A day later, the state announced that the new number was faulty and blamed the process of migrating data into the new system.

Health department spokeswoman Lisa Cox said the dashboard had been expected to be operational again by Wednesday. No explanation was offered about why the problem persisted.

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