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Parson: State will ‘probably’ help fund COVID overflow site

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson said the state will “probably” provide funding for a site to help handle the overflow of COVID-19 patients in Springfield, where hospitals are struggling to keep up with a surge driven by the delta variant and vaccination hesitation.

The Republican governor suggested that federal stimulus money also could help pay for the alternative care site health leaders in the southwestern Missouri city requested. Parson, who was in Springfield on Thursday for an unrelated bill signing, told the Springfield News-Leader that the state will “for the most part probably” fulfill the request.

“We’re in the process of kind of going through that right now to see what we can deliver and what we can’t,” he said. “Those are things we’ve done before, so I think we’ll be able to do (the funding).”

The fast-spreading delta variant has led to a surge in hospitalizations throughout southwestern Missouri. Springfield’s hospitals expect to see patient counts within days that will exceed the previous peak in mid-winter. As of Thursday, 230 people with COVID-19 were hospitalized there. Three weeks ago, the daily average patient count was fewer than 120.

Katie Towns, the interim director of the Springfield-Greene County Health Department, said the alternative care site would provide transitional care for patients stabilized enough to be released from hospitals. She told The Associated Press that options include places such as dorms and hotels. Such makeshift treatment areas were common in Missouri and throughout the country during the winter.

Parson told the News-Leader that some of the cost of setting up the site could be covered by federal stimulus money provided to Springfield and Greene County for pandemic relief.

“There’s a lot of federal funding on the local level, so there may be ways we can partner with the counties and the cities and the hospitals, and they’ll be able to do their part, you know, to come in and help with that,” Parson said.

The governor also told the newspaper that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention halted the state’s plan to implement an incentive program to encourage vaccinations. Only 45.8% of Missourians have initiated vaccination, which is 10 percentage points below the national average.

“The CDC didn’t accept our plan, which is just totally ridiculous that they would turn us down with Missouri in the situation we’re in right now. So, I think it’s just another obvious problem with the CDC,” Parson said.

A spokeswoman for Parson on Friday didn’t immediately respond to a request for additional details about the Missouri plan and why the CDC denied it. The CDC also didn’t immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

COVID-19 cases are rising sharply across Missouri. The state health department on Friday reported 1,834 newly confirmed cases and seven additional deaths. Hospitalizations continued to rise, reaching 1,357, including 425 people who were in intensive care units. Nearly half of ICU patients — 203 — were in southwestern Missouri.


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