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Missouri Governor Mike Parson addresses Capitol reporters in Jefferson City, after he declared a state of emergency in Missouri for coronavirus (March 13, 2020 photo courtesy of the Governor’s office)

Missouri declares state emergency over coronavirus

Missouri followed other states on Friday when Missouri Gov. Mike Parson declared a state of emergency. The action came in response to two more presumptive positive cases, bringing the total to four confirmed coronavirus diagnoses.

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Parson, a Republican, stated he considered declaring the state of emergency “the next appropriate step to protect the public health” and stressed the move was not made because of concerns that the state’s health care system is overwhelmed or unprepared.

Parson also said he did not intend to close the state’s schools, as Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker did on Friday. Parson said school districts should seek guidance from health departments in deciding whether to close schools.

Also on Friday, St. Louis County Executive Sam Page, who is a physician, banned all events in the county attended by more than 250 people amid a flurry of closures of athletic events, parades and even church services.

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In Kansas City, Mayor Quinton Lucas earlier in the week had banned all gatherings larger than 1,000.

Detection efforts across the state are also intensifying. The Mercy health system announced that a drive-thru coronavirus testing facility could open as soon as Saturday in the St. Louis suburb of Chesterfield. Mercy said it also plans to open more testing sites in Missouri and the other three states where it operates — Arkansas, Kansas and Oklahoma. There are currently no drive-thru facilities in Kansas City.

Meanwhile, a Missouri health department spokeswoman said the agency is working to fix a glitch with a hotline the state set up to answer questions about the virus. Calls to the hotline from out-of-state numbers wouldn’t go through as of Friday afternoon.

The state’s most recent case is a person in their early 20s who had recently traveled to Austria, Parson said at a news conference Thursday. The patient was tested at a clinic in Springfield, is quarantined at home with mild symptoms and is expected to recover, Parson said.

Missouri’s first confirmed case of coronavirus (COVID-19) was a St. Louis-area woman in her 20s who had been studying in Italy and tested positive for the coronavirus last week after returning home.

No cases have been found of the virus spreading among the community in Missouri, he said Thursday. The World Health Organization has labelled the coronavirus a pandemic and President Donald Trump has declared a national emergency.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.

The vast majority of people recover from the new virus. According to the WHO, people with mild illness recover in about two weeks, while those with more severe illness may take three to six weeks to recover.

Kansas City Public Schools decided to close on Friday, one day before the start of spring break. Most students in the district receive free and reduced-priced lunch. Ray Weikal, a KCPS spokesman, said the district has been “planning for services like food distribution, virtual learning and deep cleaning in case we cancel school after spring break,” The Kansas City Star reported.

“We know that our families depend on us for multiple services, and we commit to continuing to support our families in the event of future closures,” Weikal said.

–Metro Voice and wire services

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