Missouri remains in virus 'red zone,' but no changes planned
ST. LOUIS — Even as Missouri remains in the White House Coronavirus Task Force's "red zone," state leaders say they will not impose new restrictions or mandate masks in the battle against the disease.
Missouri's rate of new COVID-19 cases and percentage of positive test results were among the highest in the U.S. for September, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported Friday. The White House task force warned that puts Missouri in a vulnerable position heading into the fall and winter. The past four weekly task force reports to state officials all show Missouri in its "red zone."
Hospitalizations in Missouri for COVID-19 rose by 29% in September to their highest levels in the pandemic, with the surge occurring largely in rural areas and mid-sized cities.
"Institute mask requirements in counties with ongoing transmission; reduce capacity for indoor dining and bars while expanding outdoor dining options," the latest White House task force report, dated Sept. 27, advised.
Missouri has had no statewide restrictions since June 15.
Gov. Mike Parson, who along with his wife has a mild case of COVID-19, said in a livestreamed news conference this week that his staff is continuing to focus on what he calls "four pillars." They are: increasing testing, having enough protective equipment for health workers, making sure hospitals do not reach capacity and providing transparent data.
"I want to reassure everyone that all four of these pillars are stable. We monitor this every day, and we are constantly working to improve. The fight is not over, but we are on the right track, and we will get through this," Parson said.
Meanwhile, Dr. Randall Williams, director of the Missouri Department of Health and Human Services, told the Post-Dispatch that because of the state's diversity, government officials are letting local leaders decide when to implement restrictions rather than enacting statewide benchmarks.
Missouri on Friday reported 1,485 new cases of the coronavirus, bringing the total to 129,397 since the pandemic began. The state also reported 16 new deaths, bringing the total to 2,144.
Among the dead are four more people in Greene County, according to the Springfield-Greene County Health Department. The department said 57% of the county's 81 virus-related deaths occurred in September.
"We are all called to protect one another by facing the reality of this disease head-on -- these numbers prove this disease is not done with us," Greene County's health director, Clay Goddard, said in a news release. "We all share a collective responsibility to protect our family, friends and neighbors."