(The Center Square) — Three Republican governors this week issued statewide mask mandates in response to surging COVID-19 cases, but Missouri Gov. Mike Parson has no plans to do so even while acknowledging hospital capacity is “becoming a problem” and extending his state of emergency for the fourth time through March 2021.
“The emphasis that are put on by some media outlets is like I am opposed to wearing a mask. I have never been opposed to that,” Parson told reporters Thursday. “What I am opposed to is mandates from this position to the people of this state. People on the local level should have a voice.”
The state’s Department of Health and Senior Services’ (DHSS) COVID-19 dashboard reported Thursday 27,358 new diagnoses of the disease reported in Missouri over the last seven days — an average of more than 3,900 a day, the highest daily pace since July.
Overall, more than 266,000 people in Missouri have tested positive for COVID-19 and 3,591 deaths have been attributed to the disease statewide since March.
With the DOH documenting a 23.7 percent positivity rate of 122,125 tests conducted in the last seven days, and reporting more than 2,000 hospitalizations each day since Nov. 6, including 2,453 hospitalizations on Sunday, the last day of the update, Parson told reporters Thursday that hospital capacity “is becoming a problem.”
“Our positivity rates, our hospitalizations, all of those are up,” DHSS Director Dr. Randall Williams added. “Even though we have more resources and more things in the pipeline that give us great hope, at this moment in time, your risk of getting COVID-19 is the highest it’s been.”
Parson said was considering dispatching members of the Missouri National Guard to hospitals encountering staffing and capacity issues.
In extending the state of emergency set to expire Dec. 31 to March 31, 2021, the governor admitted the pandemic is likely to continue into spring but that calling for business lockdowns doesn’t make sense.
“There have been many things said about how this virus spreads, all the way from restaurants and bars to kinds of things that are in the news,” Parson said. “But I tell you, this virus is everywhere. It’s in our communities, it’s in our families, it’s in our businesses.”
The Missouri Hospital Association and the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force (MPTF) for Parson to issue a statewide mask mandate and "safer at home" order before hospitals are overwhelmed, but he governor said he would leave such matters to local government – and to individual citizens to “do the right thing.”
“It’s our responsibility as citizens of this great state to take it upon ourselves to do the right thing,” Parson said, calling on Missourians to follow health orders and limit the size of holiday gatherings. “And, I’m calling on every citizen, no matter where they’re from rural Missouri or an urban area to do just that.”
Williams urged Missourians to take precautions preparing for Thanksgiving. “Be prepared to change your plans. You’ve got to be willing to adapt,” he said.
“It’s up to me and you to change the way we do Thanksgivings, if you so choose to do that. And I would recommend that,” Parson said, noting his family is adjusting its plans to accommodate his inlays in their 80s. “I am not going to expose them, and my family won’t expose them, to the possibility of COVID-19 when we don’t have to.”