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Missouri budget chief blames sizable revenue drop on virus

As Missouri lawmakers prepare to consider emergency funding in response to the coronavirus crisis, the state’s budget director offered more evidence of the pandemic’s toll on the economy.

Budget Director Dan Haug said net general revenue collections for March dropped 4.2 percent compared to March 2019. Even though there was no statewide stay-at-home order until Monday, several jurisdictions had already issued their own orders and restrictions were placed on gathering sizes.

Lawmakers were scheduled to convene Tuesday and Wednesday. Republican Gov. Mike Parson needs their approval to spend what could amount to billions of dollars in federal funding for medical supplies, local governments and other services to fight the virus.

Parson might call a special legislative session if lawmakers are not able to pass another budget for next year before their constitutional May 8 deadline because of the pandemic.

Meantime, three residents of a St. Louis-area nursing home have died after testing positive for COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus, according to a statement Monday from the St. Charles County Department of Public Health. A total of 35 residents of Frontier Health & Rehabilitation in St. Charles, Missouri, tested positive for the disease, while 15 tested negative and test results were still pending for 14 others, the department said. The first positive case was reported March 23.

Missouri’s health department cited 355 new confirmed cases Monday, bringing the state’s total to 2,722. St. Louis County alone has now topped 1,000 confirmed cases.

The state updated the number of deaths to 39, five more than on Sunday. However, a database operated by Johns Hopkins University shows 47 deaths in Missouri. The discrepancy could be because Missouri had not required that coronavirus deaths be reported within 24 hours until it changed that policy as of Sunday.

Dr. Alex Garza, head of the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force, said Monday that 545 patients have been hospitalized in the St. Louis area, including 224 in intensive care units, with 172 on ventilators. The patients have either tested positive for COVID-19 or are showing symptoms and awaiting test results.

Garza said the number of hospitalized patients is expected to peak in two to three weeks.

Public Safety Director Sandy Karsten said models indicate Missouri doesn’t have enough medical workers to weather the virus’ peak in the state. The state is trying to recruit more doctors to help.

Asked about elections amid a pandemic, Republican Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft said he doesn’t have the power to proactively send absentee ballots to those who don’t qualify. He said upcoming elections are scheduled to go on as planned, although he’s researching drive-thru voting and other options for social distancing.

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