4 test positive for virus as Missouri lawmakers resume work
COLUMBIA — Four people tested positive for the coronavirus following open testing at the Capitol in advance of lawmakers returning to work, the state health department announced Wednesday.
The agency offered free testing to lawmakers, staffers and others who work at the Capitol at the request of Senate Democratic Minority Leader John Rizzo. A health department spokeswoman said 228 people were tested.
Republican Gov. Mike Parson called lawmakers back to work this summer to pass legislation aimed at addressing a surge in violent crime in the state's biggest cities.
Rizzo had asked for coronavirus testing to reduce the spread among lawmakers who travel to Jefferson City from across the state.
Coronavirus cases continue to rise in Missouri.
The state health department reported another 1,241 confirmed positive cases Wednesday, bringing the total since the virus first struck Missouri to 55,321. Of those tested in the past week, close to 10% were positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.
A new federal report lists Missouri among 21 states in the "red zone" for the outbreak. Those states are reporting more than 100 new cases per 100,000 people.
Health department Director Randall Williams on Wednesday said on average, those infected with the virus in Missouri are spreading it to 1.3 other people. The public health goal is to reduce the spread to only one other person or no others.
Still, Parson and Williams said the state's capacity to handle outbreaks has improved since deaths from the virus peaked in April and May.
"Although we are seeing an increased number of in cases, we are in a different place than we were in March and April," Parson said. "We know more about the virus and how it behaves, and we are better prepared now to respond."
The virus now has been hitting younger people who tend to be less likely to die from COVID-19 compared to older people, although they're still at risk.
Parson said about 21% of new coronavirus cases have been among people in their 20s and about 16% have been among people in their 30s.
He repeated calls for Missourians to social distance, wear masks and wash their hands regularly, although he's left it up to local governments to decide whether to require face masks in public.
"While younger, healthy people are less likely to have severe symptoms related to COVID-19, they can pass the virus on to others who are more at risk," Parson said. "So be responsible, protect yourself but also protect others."