While Missouri is planning up to a dozen makeshift hospitals to handle an expected crush of COVID-19 patients, Gov. Mike Parson on Tuesday said his opponent’s call to issue a statewide stay-at-home order was "playing politics."


In his daily briefing, Parson also said he expects a quick economic rebound from the pandemic coronavirus.


A little less than an hour before the state’s daily report showing the state case count grew by almost double any previous day’s increase, State Auditor Nicole Galloway issued a call for Parson to reverse course on the order.


The increase of 296 new cases was a new high for Missouri in the ongoing pandemic. The Department of Health and Senior Services reported that it had received reports of 1,327 confirmed infections with the coronavirus that causes the disease COVID-19. The previous largest increase came Friday and Saturday, with 168 new cases each day.


There have been 14 deaths reported in Missouri.


Galloway’s call for action echoed recommendations by the Missouri State Medical Association, the Missouri Nurses Association and a coalition of public health agencies.


Galloway, a Democrat, is the only major candidate for her party’s nomination for governor. Parson, a Republican, has only one primary opponent with statewide recognition, Saundra McDowell, who lost to Galloway for the auditor’s office in 2018. McDowell filed for governor on Tuesday, the last day to do so.


"A statewide stay-at-home order is necessary because we have a limited window to take steps that will lessen the surge on our healthcare system and that window is closing rapidly. Continuing to wait only delays the inevitable," Galloway said in a news release.


Asked about her release, Parson at his daily briefing said she should stick to her job.


"Here’s what I would suggest right now," Parson said. "I would stay the state auditor needs to worry about being the state auditor right now. All of us elected officials right now need to have one thing in mind — and that is what do we do to help with the COVID-19 situation. This is not the time to play politics out of this issue and try to figure out who gets one up."


Boone County and 28 other jurisdictions in the state are under stay-at-home orders, covering roughly 65 percent of the state's population.


The contagion has now spread to 67 of the state's 117 reporting local health jurisdictions. Boone County reported 66 cases on Tuesday, up six over Monday and, by population, one of the state's worst outbreaks.



Among the confirmed illnesses are staff members and youths at a facility for juvenile offenders in Lafayette County.


The state Division of Youth Services issued a news release Tuesday that the infected staff and youths at the Waverly Regional Youth Center are recovering in quarantine, isolated from other youth in the facility. Staff who tested positive for COVID-19 are quarantined at home.


The division did not give numbers of infections in the release.


As the disease spreads in Missouri, the National Guard and the Army Corps of Engineers have been touring the state looking at large arenas for conversion into hospital space, Parson said. Working with the state agencies coordinating the medical response, the tour has included the Hearnes Center and Mizzou Arena in Columbia, as well as the Edward D. Jones Dome in St. Louis, Kemper Arena in Kansas City, JQH Arena in Springfield and the Show Me Center in Cape Girardeau.


The criteria is a location in a central place, with utilities and space enough to accommodate a large number of patients, Parson said.


The largest outbreaks continue to be in the state's urban areas. St. Louis County has almost 500 cases, with another 136 in the city of St. Louis. On the western side of the state, Kansas City reported 119 infections and Jackson County outside Kansas City had 77 more.


Boone County had the largest number outside those two areas, followed by Greene County with 48, Jefferson County with 30 and Cole County with 23.


Boone County reports that 23 people have recovered from COVID-19 and there are 17 known cases of community transmission.


Speaking to the Jackson County Legislature on Tuesday, Charlie Shields, president and CEO of Truman Medical Centers, said there are several models on when and how hard COVID-19 peaks, but that it looks as if "the surge hits probably middle to late April and continues through the first part of May at capacity levels that will be very challenging for hospitals in Missouri."


Social distancing and stay-at-home orders should help to lessen the impact, he said.


"We have to be ready for the surge that is anticipated," he told county legislators.


The employment situation, clearly bad from the national and state statistics last week showing the largest one-week increase in claims in history, continued to worsen.


The Missouri Department of Higher Education and Workforce Development on Tuesday posted six new notices from employers making mass layoffs, the most of any day since large dismissals began because of the outbreak. The six employers are collectively laying off 343 employees, the largest at Gaming Partners International in Blue Springs, which is letting go 112 employees. The company is a supplier of gaming tables and equipment for casinos worldwide.


Parson, asked about the economic future, said he expects the state to be back in business when the pandemic ebbs. He said he thinks businesses will rehire all the workers they have laid off.


"I do think the economy has a great opportunity to rebound very quickly," Parson said.


The Missouri Department of Natural Resources announced Tuesday that it is closing four state parks because of overcrowding at 5 p.m. Thursday. They are Castlewood State Park in Ballwin, Elephant Rocks State Park in Belleview, Watkins Woolen Mill State Historic Site and Park in Lawson and Weston Bend State Park in Weston.


Nationally, there were 186,265 confirmed infections in the United States at about 7 p.m. Tuesday, with 3,857 deaths attributed to COVID-19. The numbers reported in the U.S. grew by 27,000 in a day, with the number of deaths up more than 900 in the same period.


Worldwide, there were almost 857,000 confirmed infections, up almost 82,000 in less than 24 hours. Deaths worldwide that are blamed on the coronavirus now total 42,081.


The Blue Springs Examiner and the Associated Press contributed to this report.


All of the Tribune’s coronavirus coverage is being provided free to our readers. Please consider supporting local journalism by subscribing to the Tribune at columbiatribune.com/subscribenow and help keep local businesses afloat at supportlocal.usatoday.com.