ST. LOUIS — The leaders of the three most populous counties on the Missouri side of the metro area all say a more uniform response from state government could better manage the coronavirus crisis.
Missouri Gov. Mike Parson has declined to issue a statewide stay-home order, opting instead to limit gatherings to no more than 10 people and leaving it to local governments to issue stricter orders. Parson said Monday that his order limiting groups could be extended to May from its April 6 expiration.
During an online briefing hosted by the St. Louis Regional Chamber, St. Charles County Executive Steve Ehlmann said “one of our problems with the lack of a statewide response” is that activity, based on monitored traffic levels, in the western part of the county has not declined as much as traffic closer to the urban core. He suspects it could be because people in Lincoln and Warren counties have not “been restricted as to what they can and can’t do.”
“In the eastern part of the county, we’re adjacent to St. Louis County, and 60 percent of the people in St. Charles County work in St. Louis County, so they’re getting the message much better than people in the western part of the county,” Ehlmann said. “That’s just one of the problems without having some kind of statewide response to this. In that regard I’d love to see the state get a little more involved.”
The comments from Ehlmann, a Republican like Parson, follow Democratic St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson’s call last week for Parson to issue a statewide stay-home order. The city’s stay-home order was issued along with St. Louis County's on March 21.
Ehlmann issued his own stay-home guidance March 23. But unlike his counterparts in the city and county, he declined to list "essential businesses" that could remain open. He said Tuesday some businesses, after hearing from their customers, were self-policing and closing without a mandate.
St. Louis County Executive Sam Page, a Democrat, also called for a statewide stay-home order.
“It would help if Missouri had a standardized response,” Page told the business leaders Tuesday. “A stay-at-home order from the state would help us a great deal.”
Though Page said the governor has helped the county obtain personal protective equipment, or PPE, and testing supplies, a statewide social distancing order could help keep rural areas from seeing "an explosion of this virus.”
In Illinois, St. Clair County Board Chairman Mark Kern said the state is fortunate that Gov. J.B. Pritzker is "not acting in a piecemeal way."
“Unfortunately, when you have a piecemeal effort, as is going on in some states, that’s a problem," said Kern, a Democrat like Pritzker. "Everybody’s got to work together, every county has to be doing the same thing so we make sure when we ramp up to this level, and it is going to peak in probably about two weeks, that we’re all peaking at the same time and going down at the same time.
"What we don’t want to happen is an area that all of a sudden becomes a hot spot and reinfects the region after we get through this,” Kern added.
Missouri Auditor Nicole Galloway, a Democrat running against Parson for governor, also called for a statewide stay-at-home order on Tuesday.
"Public health experts, front-line hospital workers, and medical professionals have provided clear guidance on what our state needs to do to make it through this crisis," Galloway said in an announcement.
Parson, in his daily news briefing, said he was "not at the point" to issue a full-stay-home order such as those issued in neighboring Illinois and Kansas.
"Right now I think the most important thing you can do, regardless of all the other orders out there: less than 10 people, 6 feet apart," the governor said.
Jack Suntrup of the Post-Dispatch contributed to this report.
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