There are new COVID-19 cases in counties with outbreaks associated with pork production and meat processing as well as additional cases in Boone County as officials consider the next steps in reducing restrictions on business and gatherings.


Audrain County had 22 cases of COVID-19 as of Thursday afternoon. Of that number, 21 have been found in the past week.


At least 13 of the cases in Audrain County are associated with concentrated animal feeding operations. They are the first cases associated with CAFOS, while many other cases are happening at meat processing plants.


There were two new cases in Adair County, which now has 39 total cases. The latest surge in cases in the Kirksville area is associated with workers at the Kraft Heinz plant that makes all the Oscar Mayer bologna sold in North America.


"COVID-19 continues to spread in our community," Jim LeBaron, administrator of the Adair County Health Department, said in a news release. "Every resident of the county bears a responsibility to take every precaution possible to protect others. We all have to do what we can to slow the spread."


The new cases in rural communities come as Gov. Mike Parson has outlined a plan that includes testing every resident in nursing homes where infections from the coronavirus have occurred within the past two weeks, sampling in state-operated facilities such as prisons and mental health facilities, and community testing for anyone who wants it in major cities including Columbia.


Parson has set a goal of 7,500 tests per day, a level achieved only twice since the outbreak started, on May 14 and again Thursday.


The latest data shows Missouri ranks 40th in the nation in per-capita testing.


"We cannot fully recover economically without increasing our testing numbers," Parson said.


Boone County reported three new infections Thursday, bringing the total to nine this week and 108 since the first case was reported in mid-March.


City officials scheduled a 10 a.m. Friday news conference to discuss the next steps in reopening, which will increase capacity in restaurants, retail stores and child care facilities.


The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Missouri rose by 108 on Thursday, raising the statewide total since the start of the pandemic to 11,340. Another 30 people died, bringing the state's death toll 661.


Parson said he wants 1,850 tests per day in long-term care facilities, 1,440 tests per day in prisons, mental health centers, youth offender facilities and veterans nursing homes, and 975 per day in community sampling.


The community sampling will take place in Boone, Greene, Cape Girardeau, Jackson, St. Charles, Jefferson, Andrew, Pemiscot and New Madrid counties, said Randall Williams, director of the Department of Health and Senior Services.


The list includes some of the most populous counties in the state and counties that were asking for mass testing, Williams said.


Boone, Cape Girardeau and Greene counties are regional hubs for medical care, he said. The testing is for anyone who wants a test who can get to the site, not just people with symptoms who live within the county where the tests take place, he said.


"It is important to understand that even though it is in those counties, it is intended to be regional, Williams said.


Williams also met with the CARES Act Funding Working Group, led by State Treasurer Scott Fitzpatrick. He reported on the plans for expanded testing and how the state will pay for it, state Rep. Kip Kendrick, D-Columbia and a working group member, said.


Missouri is receiving $135 million from the legislation passed in March to pay for testing, Kendrick said. And members are trying to figure out if the COVID-19 funding distributed to the state can be used to pay the required 25% match for federal disaster aid, he said.


New guidance is coming so often on how the money can be used that there is a lot of uncertainty, Kendrick said.


"They are not changing the rules but definitely changing the game on how the coronavirus relief funds can be used," he said.


The state Social Services Department said Thursday that it received a federal waiver to extend emergency food stamp benefits through June. The waiver will allow Missouri to continue offering the maximum food stamp benefits to everyone on the program.


Jennifer Tidball, the director of the Department of Social Services, warned in a news release that families should be prepared for their benefits to drop back to normal in July.


Elsewhere, the state health department said it was dropping an emergency rule that gave the health director the authority to ban large gatherings and gave local health officials the authority to close schools and bar other gatherings during designated statewide pandemics.


The agency wrote that it needed the change "to ensure that the director of the Department of Health and Senior Services has the clear and immediate authority to limit the size of public gatherings to limit the spreads" of the coronavirus.


"This emergency amendment provides for the isolation or quarantine of persons and animals with a communicable disease and their contacts," the agency wrote May 1 in the Missouri Register. "It also authorizes the closing of schools and places of public and private assembly as well as the issuance of gathering orders."


Nineteen Republican state senators wrote a letter urging the department to nix the rule. Republican Sen. Bob Onder claimed it would give local health officials permanent authority to close schools, churches and other gatherings.


But health department spokeswoman Lisa Cox said in an email that the rule "did not increase the power of the department or local health authorities."


"Bottom line, the considerable amount of confusion and misunderstanding regarding what the amendment does outweighed the benefits of the rule," she said.


rkeller@columbiatribune.com


573-382-6583


The Associated Press contributed to this report.