Gov. Mike Parson is backing a bill that would shield health care providers from lawsuits related to their care for people with COVID-19.

JEFFERSON CITY — Gov. Mike Parson is backing a bill that would shield health care providers from lawsuits related to their care for people with COVID-19.

The proposal would protect nursing homes, long-term care facilities, all caregivers and first responders from lawsuits linked to the coronavirus pandemic.

Republican Rep. Dan Houx, of Warrensburg, who sponsored the proposal, said he wants to protect people on the front line from liability "during this unprecedented time," the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

Parson agreed, saying the Legislature should discuss the topic during the final two weeks of their annual session.

"The last thing we want is good people getting sued because they were trying to save people's lives in unusual circumstances," Parson said. "I think we're really going to have to take a good look at that."

Nursing homes have become coronavirus hot spots nationwide, and the industry is pushing for legal protection, saying most of the risk factors in the coronavirus fight are beyond its control, such as shortages of personal protective equipment and testing, shifting directives from authorities, and sicknesses that have decimated staffs.

In Missouri, the coronavirus has infected residents in nearly 80 nursing homes and assisted care facilities in Missouri, according to state health officials.

Watchdogs, patient advocates and lawyers contend the pandemic has exposed chronic problems in the health care industry and lawsuits are the last way to keep facilities accountable.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms that clear up after two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.

In another front in the response to the coronavirus, a lawsuit was filed Monday in U.S. District Court in St. Louis asking a judge to block emergency orders that are keeping many businesses in St. Louis and St. Louis County closed as the rest of the state reopens. 

The lawsuit, filed on behalf of an antique store in St. Louis and a gym in St. Louis County, contends Missouri law allows only the director of Health and Senior Services to to close businesses. 

Parson's statewide stay-at-home order expired Monday but businesses in St. Louis and St. Louis County remain mostly closed under orders from Mayor Lyda Krewson and St. Louis County Executive Sam Page, who have said they will reconsider the orders in mid-May.

The lawsuit asks the court to temporarily and permanently restrain the city and county from enforcing their orders. U.S. District Judge Stephen R. Clark Sr. has set a telephone conference on the lawsuit for 1:30 p.m. Wednesday.