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Parson's office doesn't believe governor caught virus at veterans home facing outbreak

Parson's office doesn't believe governor caught virus at veterans home facing outbreak

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Governor, senator updated on new coronavirus test at  Washington University School of Medicine

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson and his wife, Teresa, leave a meeting with representatives from the Washington University School of Medicine where they learned about a new saliva test for coronavirus recently approved by the FDA on Thursday, Sept. 3, 2020. (Robert Cohen, rcohen@post-dispatch.com)

JEFFERSON CITY — The Mt. Vernon Veterans Home in southwest Missouri confirmed its first case of COVID-19 the day after Gov. Mike Parson visited the facility earlier this month.

The veterans home, as of Tuesday, was grappling with 24 active infections among veterans and 12 among staff, said Jamie Melchert, spokesman for the Missouri Veterans Commission.

Closer to St. Louis, in Phelps County, the St. James Veterans Home on Tuesday had confirmed 25 active cases among veterans and seven among staff, Melchert said.

Parson and First Lady Teresa Parson tested positive for COVID-19 last week.

Despite Parson's visit to Mt. Vernon the day before its first positive case, Kelli Jones, spokeswoman for the governor, said the administration doesn't believe he contracted the virus at the home. She said the first lady didn't attend the visit.

"Our office believes there is no connection," she said Tuesday in a statement. "No one at the facility would have been considered a close contact … to Governor Parson. Social distancing was practiced, masks were worn, and Governor Parson was not around anyone longer than 5-10 minutes."

Parson visited the Mt. Vernon Veterans Home on Sept. 15. Melchert said the location confirmed its first positive COVID-19 case on Sept. 16.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, we have been working hard to keep our most vulnerable citizens safe. Our Missouri...

Posted by Governor Mike Parson on Tuesday, September 15, 2020

The Parsons tested positive for COVID-19 on Sept. 23, more than a week after the visit. Teresa Parson experienced mild symptoms, she has said.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, individuals typically develop symptoms five days after they are infected.

But the agency says symptom onset varies, with some people experiencing symptoms two days after being infected, and others experiencing them as late as 14 days after infection.

At Mt. Vernon, Melchert said veterans who have tested positive have been moved to "isolation areas."

"There are isolation areas established in the Veterans Home for the veterans who test positive to provide an added level of care and segregate them from other veterans," Melchert said. "Staff members who test positive must isolate at their own homes."

He said the Mt. Vernon home tests veterans and staff twice per week, and that the home has restricted access since early March to fend off the disease.

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"We easily will hit six-figure numbers in terms of the number of cases," Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, said Friday night. "And the deaths are going to go up precipitously in the next three to four weeks."

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