KANSAS CITY — The state of Missouri will waive some requirements for receiving unemployment benefits as it tries to respond to a steep increase in claims during the coronavirus pandemic, state officials said.

In the past week, the number of claims for unemployment benefits was about 30% of the total the state received in all of last year, Anna Hui, director of the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations, said Wednesday.

"That's an incredible number," Hui said.

Missouri received almost 180,000 claims last year, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. For the past week, the number of new filings is more than 40,000, data released Thursday shows.

Missouri will temporarily waive its one-week waiting period and a requirement that people seeking unemployment make at least three attempts to find work each week, the state said.

The announcement came as Missouri health officials said Wednesday the state has confirmed 356 cases of the coronavirus, an increase of 101 since Tuesday. Eight people have died from the virus.

Among those testing positive was an IRS workers inside the sprawling campus near downtown Kansas City, leading to a two-week closure for cleaning, The Kansas City Star reported. Also an employee at McCrite Plaza at Briarcliff in the Kansas City area has tested positive for COVID-19, but no other employees or residents show symptoms of the coronavirus, the senior living community said Wednesday.

For most people, the coronavirus 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.

Amid the outbreak, authorities in St. Louis and St. Louis County were finalizing plans Wednesday to immediately release more than 140 inmates from city and county jails out of concern to limit the spread of the coronavirus, the Post-Dispatch reported.

In Kansas City, tents were set up east of downtown in a multi-agency effort to ensure the homeless continue to receive services during the coronavirus pandemic.

"We're trying to bring them to one centralized area, to assess their needs and give them the assistance they need," said Vincent Morales, co-founder of Veterans Community Project.

In southwest Missouri, Springfield Public Schools and 24 regional districts announced plans Wednesday to extend their closures through April 24. Hours later, an order that only allows people to leave their home only for essential activities took effect Thursday in the city's Greene County — one of many such orders statewide.