Parson talks about reopening state as COVID-19 cases continue to rise

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Gov. Mike Parson gets his flu shot in October 2019.

By Claire Colby and Madison Czopek, Missouri News Network

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to hit Missouri, Gov. Mike Parson is turning his sights on reopening the economy — even as St. Louis officials said they will wait at least a month before reopening.

“We got to get people back to work,” the governor said in Wednesday’s press briefing. “We got to get the economy going here in the state of Missouri, that’s critical. It’s an important issue we’re dealing with right now. And we’re making plans to reopen the state.”

Parson said he’s been working closely with governors in other states to coordinate efforts to reopen state economies.

“I think we are all trying to look beyond the COVID-19 virus and start planning on how we open up the economy and still deal with this virus,” he said. “Knowing this virus is still going to be around for a while — we still got to open up the economies in our states, so we’re going to do that.”

On Wednesday, the number of confirmed cases in Missouri climbed by more than 200 to reach 4,895. The number of deaths increased to 147 people — up from 133 on Tuesday.

Parson said he will speak more about plans to reopen the state and about the statewide stay-at-home order, which was scheduled to expire April 24, during Thursday’s news briefing scheduled for 3 p.m.

Topic first discussed in Tuesday briefing

In the midst of nationwide talks about when and how to ease restrictions, Parson indicated in his Tuesday briefing that the state won’t reopen all at once.

“We’re going to look at Missouri data to figure out how we’re going to make those decisions,” Parson said, adding that he would look at where the cases and hotspots are.

Parson is in constant communication with people around the state regarding how to start the economy back up again. “That’ll probably be more in phases if I was guessing,” he said.

Although Missouri has made strides, Parson cautioned that people cannot stop following state restrictions.

“Now is the time to continue social distancing and staying home as much as possible. We will overcome this, but we need everyone to continue making smart choices, being responsible and following the stay-home order,” he said.

Parson was also asked if he’d been in talks with Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly about coordinating efforts to reopen the states’ economies, after governors in the Northeast and West Coast formed pacts to evaluate how to reopen.

He said he has talked to governors around the country and that his chief of staff has been in contact with Kelly’s chief of staff, but he emphasized that Missouri comes first.

“Missouri’s so diverse and the way we’re set up in this state is totally different than a lot of other states,” Parson said. “So we’re going to approach that from what’s best for the state of Missouri. It’s not so much what every other governor wants to do or trying to become one pact to decide how you do that. I’ve got to take care of Missourians.”