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Parson: Hospitalizations down sharply in most areas of state

Coronavirus hospitalizations across Missouri are down significantly since peaking in early April, a key parameter in allowing the state to reopen, Gov. Mike Parson said Tuesday.

The Republican governor has outlined several metrics that he considers important in his decision to allow businesses and organizations to reopen starting Monday. During a news conference, he focused on key data used in making the decision.

Parson said hospitalizations peaked at 1,142 on April 7 and have since declined dramatically everywhere except the St. Louis area, which has seen an 8 percent increase.

But Parson said hospitalizations are down 41 percent in the Kansas City area, more than 60 percent in the northeast and southwest of the state, and 38 percent to 45 percent elsewhere. He also cited increasing availability of testing and the availability of 1,100 ventilators as reasons for getting the state back up and running.

“Our hospitals are not overwhelmed and things are improving,” Parson said.

The governor’s comments came on a day when the state health department reported 26 new deaths, bringing the total to 314. Confirmed cases rose by 132 to 7,303. The actual number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested and studies suggest that people can be infected without feeling sick.

Some states have already begun reopening despite concerns that doing so will cause a new spike in cases and deaths.

Dan Mehan, CEO of the Missouri Chamber of Commerce, said the shutdown has caused a significant strain on businesses. He said a recent survey showed that Missouri businesses expect to lose a quarter of their revenue for the year, and that 15 percent of firms will likely go out of business.

Parson’s reopening order will not apply to St. Louis, St. Louis County, Kansas City or Jackson County. Democratic leaders in the state’s four largest jurisdictions have said they won’t reopen until mid-May at the earliest.

The statewide order allows religious services to resume, but black pastors in St. Louis worry that it’s too soon.

Officials with the St. Louis Clergy Coalition said they’re concerned that reopening churches will worsen the pandemic in the already hard-hit black community. About 30 percent of all cases in Missouri — and 40 percent of deaths — involve black residents, even though just 12 percent of the state’s population is black. The percentage is even worse in the St. Louis area, which makes up more than half of all cases and two-thirds of all deaths in the state.

The coalition’s president, Bishop Elijah Hankerson, said in a statement that medical professionals, “not the politicians,” should decide when it’s safe to go back to church.

“Why should people who are already suffering disproportionately in so many other ways subject themselves to sickness and possible death?” activist Darryl Gray asked.
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