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Parson plan to include guidance for church services, sports

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson said his plan to reopen the state from the coronavirus shutdown will include guidance for attending church services, sports and other activities and events.

Parson said during a news conference Friday that Missourians have “stepped up to do their part” in helping to reduce the spread of the coronavirus, allowing the state to move ahead with plans to allow businesses and other organizations to reopen starting May 4. He said more details will be announced next week about how the reopening will work.

The Republican governor said the guidance he will outline will include religious services, weddings, outdoor functions such as sports and even graduation ceremonies. He said restrictions may vary depending on the location.

“Some communities will be able to open at a faster rate than others,” Parson said.

The shutdown has forced hundreds of Missouri businesses to close since March. Nearly 400,000 Missourians have filed for jobless benefits over the past five weeks.

For most people, the virus 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.

The number of confirmed cases in Missouri increased by 200 on Friday to 6,506, and deaths rose by 10 to 252, according to Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Systems Science and Engineering, which is monitoring cases worldwide. Figures from the state health department had even higher numbers: 6,625 confirmed cases and 262 deaths.

Parson announced he has extended an emergency declaration through June 15. The declaration allows the state to maintain waivers and suspensions of some statutes and regulations.

Nearly two dozen inmates at a prison in southeast Missouri have tested positive for the coronavirus, the first outbreak of the illness inside a correctional facility in the state.

Missouri Department of Corrections spokeswoman Karen Pojmann said three inmates in a wing at the Southeast Correctional Center in Charleston tested positive earlier this week for COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus. The department then tested all 64 residents of the wing along with 82 staff members.

The testing found that 19 additional inmates had the virus. The wing has been quarantined since April 15, when the first inmate was tested and put in an isolation unit.

None of the recently-tested staff members tested positive. Three staff members who tested positive in early April are in quarantine at home.

Pojmann said no inmates at any other Missouri prison have been found with the illness.

The state plans to test workers at meatpacking and food plants in Moniteau, Saline and Buchanan counties, where dozens of workers have become infected. The state health department said all 2,800 workers at the Triumph Foods pork plant in St. Joseph will be tested, even those showing no symptoms.

St. Charles County officials announced Friday that a 14th person has died at Frontier Health and Rehabilitation Center in St. Charles from the coronavirus. The latest victim was a woman in her 90s.

The financial squeeze of the outbreak has led a Kansas City hospital, Children’s Mercy, to furlough nearly 600 employees for up to two months starting Sunday, the Kansas City Star reported.  Top executives will see pay cuts, ranging from 20% for vice presidents to 30 percent for CEO Paul Kempinski.

The virus has led to a significant drop in patients coming in for other ailments, as elective procedures were suspended and outpatient clinic visits limited last month to prepare for a surge in COVID-19, Kempinski said. That’s costing the hospital net revenue of about $1 million a day.

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