O’FALLON, Mo. (AP) — The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Missouri jumped by nearly 300 on Tuesday, as calls for a statewide stay-at-home mandate increased.
Health officials said 15 people have died and 1,327 cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, have been confirmed. That was a 28.7% increase from the 1,031 confirmed cases on Monday. St. Charles County said Tuesday that an 83-year-old woman has died of the coronavirus.
Republican Gov. Mike Parson has banned gatherings of more than 10 people statewide, but has declined to follow the lead of nearly two dozen other states that require people to stay at home except in exceptional circumstances. Several health care organizations and Democratic politicians have called for a statewide stay-at-home order.
Parson said during a news conference that he’s “not at a point” to issue a stay-at-home order, noting that 95 of Missouri’s 114 counties have five or fewer confirmed cases.
“This is not the time to play politics,” Parson said.
The order in St. Louis hasn’t resonated with all. It allows outdoor exercise as long as people practice social distancing. City officials concerned about large gatherings have closed playgrounds and barred vehicles from streets in parks, while displaying electronic signs urging people to stay apart.
City officials said they also were considering going to court to close churches that don’t observe the ban on assemblies of more than 10 after citing two churches for Sunday gatherings, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
Meanwhile, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources cited overcrowding for the closure of four state parks — 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 — starting at 5 p.m. Thursday.
For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.
Parson said state agencies are considering which stadiums and arenas could be converted into care centers if hospitals run out of beds to treat patients, including the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis, Hearnes Center in Columbia, and Hy-Vee Arena in Kansas City.
Civil rights organizations, doctors and others have been calling for the release of as many pretrial detainees as possible during the pandemic. St. Louis city and county released nearly 150 inmates last week. Jackson County released about 80.
The Missouri Sheriff’s Association said it opposes the “sweeping release of offenders,” citing concerns including victim safety and the possibility that suspects could commit new crimes. Parson said his administration has “no intention of releasing incarcerated individuals at this time.”
Department of Corrections Director Anne Precythe said there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Missouri prisons, but that one prisoner tested positive while hospitalized for another medical issue.
Missouri Social Services on Tuesday reported cases among minors and staff at Waverly Regional Youth Center in Waverly but did not provide details.