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More Missouri counties require masks

ST. LOUIS (AP) — More Missouri counties are adding mask orders as virus cases and hospitalizations surge.

Among them is Jefferson County, which approved a mask order on Wednesday, the third county in the region to add coronavirus restrictions in recent days. The move followed a persistent — but so far unsuccessful — campaign by area health officials imploring Missouri Gov. Mike Parson to mandate masks statewide.

COVID-19 hospitalizations have been breaking records nearly every day. And on Thursday, the state reported 4,471 new confirmed cases, bringing the total to 287,263. Since the pandemic started, 3,808 people have died, according to the latest data from the state’s health department.

Last Thursday, Franklin County, next to Jefferson, passed a mask order. Boone County, home to Columbia, passed a similar requirement on Tuesday. That same day, St. Charles County officials ordered an 11 p.m. curfew at bars and restaurants.

The issue has been a source of tension for months in Jefferson County, with residents protesting when a similar order was proposed in the summer.

“The thing we need to remember most importantly out of this is that it isn’t about restricting individuals, it’s about saving lives,” Jefferson County Health Department Director Kelley Vollmar said in a statement.

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