Missouri will have testing to control outbreaks and teams ready to trace the contacts of people sick with COVID-19 when the stay-at-home order expires Sunday, Gov. Mike Parson said during his daily briefing.


Businesses, including restaurants and hair salons, as well as places where people gather such as sporting arenas and churches will all be allowed to resume operations, Parson said.


He cautioned, however, that there will be limits on capacity in businesses and he expects social distancing to be observed as people gather.


"This will be a turning of the dial, not the flip of a switch," Parson said.


Parson outlined the four main areas of the reopening plan as lawmakers in the Missouri House debated a budget that cuts $500 million from general revenue spending and after the the University of Missouri announced it had set up a portal for voluntary pay cuts.


Those areas, in addition to testing and tracing, are adequate hospital capacity to handle a surge in new cases and adequate protective gear for hospitals and first responders, along with sure supplies of new gear.


One of the key reasons the state is ready to , Parson said, is that the number of new coronavirus infections found by testing has remained relatively steady and well below the peak.


The daily report of new coronavirus infections on Monday showed 174 new cases, bringing the count of all confirmed infections since March 7 to 7,171. The state reported another 14 deaths Monday, bringing the total to 288.


That was below the daily average of 187 cases per day last week and less than half the daily peak of 355 new infections found on April 6.


Most of the new cases continued to be coming from the St. Louis area, with St. Louis County recording 103 new cases, raising its total to 2,897 infections, with 20 more in St. Louis and 17 more in St. Charles County.


Outside that area, most of the remaining cases were in three counties where there are outbreaks associated with meat-packing plants.


The outbreak in Saline County continued to grow on Monday, with nine new cases and 168 in total. The state health department will send a team to the county this week too do 400 tests to try to contain the outbreak.


There were six new cases in St. Joseph, where the Triumph Foods pork processing plant has reported infections and one in Moniteau County, where cases have been reported at Burgers’ Smokehouse.



There have been coronavirus infections found in 99 of the state’s 117 local health department jurisdictions and deaths in 33 counties.


With an infection rate of 738 per 100,000 people, Saline County has the highest infection rate in the state, more than double the rate in St. Louis.


In coming days, the state will deploy thousands of tests to locations where outbreaks are occurring, Parson said.


The state is 37th nationally in the share of the population that has been tested, according to data available Monday afternoon.


The state has loosened the guidelines for obtaining a test and expanded its ability to process tests at the state Health Lab and in private laboratories, MOHealthnet Director Todd Richardson said.


"Private physicians should feel comfortable and encouraged to order testing at their discretion," he said.


Community surveillance testing will be done in St. Louis, Kansas City and some rural communities to determine if there are infections being missed by the health care system, he said.


The budget debate in the Missouri House opened with a discussion of whether it would be better to wait until the state’s revenue picture is clearer.


House Budget Committee Chairman Cody Smith, R-Carthage, said it is likely that lawmakers would return for a special session sometime this summer to pass supplemental spending bills.


"What we are doing today is taking a snapshot of what we know, which is not a great deal," Smith said.


House Minority Leader Crystal Quade, D-Springfield, suggested it would be better to wait until June, when the fiscal year is near an end, and lawmakers could see a written estimate of the money available.


"As of today, we have not seen anything," Quade said.


The economic fallout of the pandemic continues to play out for health care providers who have been cut off from normal sources of revenue as people have stayed home and canceled appointments.


SSM Health announced it would temporarily reduce its workforce by 5% through a furlough across its four-state health system.


One of the key elements of Parson’s reopening plan is to assist local health departments with contact-tracing, Parson said. The state will send teams to assist that work, he said.


"We are well aware that many of our local health departments don't have the resources to do the contact tracing we must do," Parson said.


In local areas, the counts for Boone and Greene counties remained stable Monday. The Columbia-Boone County Health Department reported no new cases and 92 total infections confirmed by testing since mid-March. There are three active cases, with 86 people recovered and one death. State data shows 98 infections have been found among Boone County residents.


In Greene County, the state count showed no change on Monday, with 83 recorded cases.


Other than a new cases in Moniteau County and Saline counties, no other new cases were reported in central Missouri.


Nationally, the pandemic does not seem to be slowing. As of Monday afternoon, the U.S. had more than 983,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, up about 27,000 since Monday.


The contagion is blamed for 55,735 deaths in the United States.


Worldwide, the virus is known to have infected more than 3 million people and is blamed for more than 210,00 deaths.


The Associated Press contributed to this report.


rkeller@columbiatribune.com


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