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Missouri governor mobilizes National Guard for virus fight

Missouri braced itself for a surge of coronavirus patients as the number of deaths grew to nine, with the governor mobilizing the state’s National Guard and a top St. Louis County official urging recently retired health care workers to return to work.

Gov. Mike Parson said Friday in a statement that the use of the National Guard will enhance coordination among state government partners and help the state “overcome this global pandemic.”

A statue of a Sioux Indian scout wears a face mask as it stands on a bluff overlooking Kansas City pm Thursday. AP Photo by Charlie Riedel

A statue of a Sioux Indian scout wears a face mask as it stands on a bluff overlooking Kansas City pm Thursday. AP Photo by Charlie Riedel

St. Louis County Executive Sam Page, in a YouTube video released Thursday, asked that any recently retired doctors, nurses or other health care professional come back to work. Page, himself a physician, said he’s worried that hospitals will be overwhelmed soon.

“In the coming weeks our medical institutions will face a heavy burden,” Page said. “We need your help to make sure everyone gets the treatment that they need.”

As of Thursday, the state had reported 502 confirmed cases of COVID-19. Later Thursday, St. Louis County officials announced the ninth death in the state: a woman in her 80s with chronic medical conditions.

For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. But the virus can lead to pneumonia and even death for some people, especially older adults and those with existing health problems.

Among the hard-hit places in Missouri is Life Care Center in St. Louis, a nursing home that has reported six cases. Sean Buckley, executive director of the Life Care Center in St. Louis, said in a written statement that four residents were hospitalized and two employees were directed to stay at home.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that the nursing home is owned by the same company that operates the Life Care Center of Kirkland, near Seattle, where 37 people died from COVID-19. Another Life Care facility in Kansas City was the site of Kansas’ first coronavirus death.

Health officials have said that three of the people who have died of the coronavirus lived at an assisted-living center in Springfield.

The Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, which covers the western third of Missouri as well as parts or all of six other states, released a troubling report Friday, saying that 54% of the companies surveyed expected lower levels of employment for 2020 because of COVID-19 and market volatility. The report also said that 63% of the companies were concerned about cash availability.

Missouri will receive federal funds to cover some costs of fighting the spread of the coronavirus, after President Donald Trump approved a federal disaster declaration for the state. Parson’s request for federal assistance for crisis counseling, unemployment assistance and disposal for hazardous waste related to the outbreak are pending.

Stay-at-home orders are in place across much of the state, and on Friday the city of St. Louis cracked down further, closing all playgrounds. A news release from the St. Louis Department of Health said people have been gathering in large groups at playgrounds during the crisis, increasing the risk of children either contracting of spreading the coronavirus.

Other coronavirus-related developments in Missouri:

NURSING HOMES:

Officials didn’t say whether the latest victim lived in a nursing home, even as another nursing home recorded cases. Sean Buckley, executive director of the Life Care Center in St. Louis, said in a written statement that four residents are hospitalized and two employees were directed to stay at home.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that the nursing home is owned by the same company that operates the Life Care Center of Kirkland, near Seattle, where 37 people have died from a COVID-19 outbreak. Another Life Care facility in Kansas City was the site of Kansas’ first coronavirus death.

Buckley said the first of the six cases at Life Care Center of St. Louis was confirmed Tuesday in a resident who was hospitalized March 18 at SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital in Richmond Heights. Two residents who later exhibited symptoms of the coronavirus were taken to the hospital Monday, Buckley said. A fourth resident was hospitalized Tuesday.

Health officials previously announced that three of the people to die of the coronovirus had lived at an assisted-living center in Springfield.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, or death.

UNEMPLOYMENT:

Officials also announced a 900 percent increase in unemployment benefits. Federal unemployment data released Thursday showed 40,508 Missourians filed initial unemployment claims for the week ending March 21, compared to 4,016 the previous week. That came as a record number of people across the U.S. applied for unemployment benefits last week because of layoffs caused by the pandemic.

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