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Spike in virus cases prompts new face mask requirements in Missouri

The rapidly rising number of confirmed new coronavirus cases has prompted facial- covering requirements in several areas of Missouri, including the state’s largest city.

The state health department on Thursday reported 795 new cases of COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus. That was the most in a single day since the pandemic began, topping the 773 confirmed new cases reported Tuesday. In the first four days of this week, Missouri has reported 2,563 new cases.

Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas on Friday extended the requirement to wear a facial covering through at least Aug. 15. The original face mask order that went into effect June 29 was scheduled to expire Sunday, but Kansas City has averaged 290 confirmed new COVID-19 cases over the past four days, including 370 on Thursday.

“As we’ve seen in a number of other jurisdictions, there continues to be significant concerns with the spread of COVID-19, continuing taxation on certain public health and medical resources, and that’s why we are taking the ongoing steps we will today,” Lucas, a Democrat, said at a news conference.

Kansas City also is maintaining it 50% capacity limit for drinking establishments, Lucas said.

Earlier this month, St. Louis city and county both began requiring face coverings when inside businesses and other public places, and outside when social distancing is not possible.

St. Louis County and city were hit harder than the rest of the state early in the pandemic. The number of cases had been declining, but the county has averaged 112 new cases each day this week, compared to a daily average of 85 last week.

The Joplin City Council voted this week to require face masks. Jasper County has reported 733 new cases in the past month, most of them in Joplin.

St. Joseph Mayor Bill McMurray on Thursday issued an order requiring facial coverings in large retail stores. The Springfield City Council will consider a mask requirement when it meets Monday.

Missouri was among the earliest states to reopen. Republican Gov. Mike Parson and the state health director, Randall Williams, have pointed to a decrease in hospitalizations since the virus peaked and a drop in the rate of the virus’ spread between people in an attempt to reassure Missourians that the state overall is managing the virus well.

State health officials say new cases are being spread primarily by young people who infect many others. Health department spokeswoman Lisa Cox said the average age of newly diagnosed cases in the past week was 37.4.

Cox said younger, healthier people are more likely to have mild symptoms and a fast recovery. “On the negative side, it’s easy for them to carry the virus to someone older or with underlying conditions,” she said in an email.

All told, 25,999 Missourians have had confirmed cases of the virus since the pandemic began, though officials suspect the actual number is much higher because many people with mild or no symptoms do not get tested. The death toll in Missouri stands at 1,051.

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