JEFFERSON CITY — Gov. Mike Parson put all Missouri residents under a stay-at-home order Friday, ending days of frustration for critics who said he should have taken the action weeks ago to help curb the spread of COVID-19.
On a day when the number of deaths in Missouri linked to the deadly virus stood at 19, Parson’s order gives local officials the ability to determine what are essential services.
The Republican chief executive, who once served as sheriff in Polk County, said he wanted to give mayors and county officials some flexibility in their enforcement of the requirement.
“As governor I have no greater responsibility than to protect the health and safety of all Missourians,” Parson said. “There are six million of us who call Missouri home.”
The order goes into effect at 12:01 a.m. Monday and remains in effect through April 24.
Missouri reported its first case of the coronavirus on March 7 and has watched as the respiratory disease has rapidly spread. State health officials said there were 2,113 confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of Friday afternoon.
Kansas City, St. Louis and more than three dozen Missouri cities and counties already had issued stay-at-home orders, allowing residents to leave their homes only for essential reasons.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, who is leading the federal government response to the pandemic, has said all states should have shelter-in-place orders.
But Parson, while asking Missourians to remain home, had refrained from issuing an order to that effect. His previous order, set to expire Monday, had limited gatherings statewide to no more than 10 people, leaving Missouri with a patchwork quilt of regulations.
Parson’s administration has closed the Capitol, shuttered some state parks, banned camping and has assigned more than 15,000 state employees to work from home.
“There comes a time when we have to make major sacrifices in our lives. Many of us make sacrifices each and every day, but now more than ever, we must all make sacrifices,” Parson said. “This is not about any one individual person. This is about our families, friends, neighbors, and the entire state of Missouri. For the sake of all Missourians, be smart, be responsible, and stay home, Missourians.”
Before the announcement, Missouri had been among a handful of states that hadn’t implemented a stay-at-home order.
That began to change Friday, with Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey, also a Republican, announcing a statewide shelter-in-place order set to take effect on Saturday.
When state Auditor Nicole Galloway, his presumptive Democratic opponent in the November election, called on him to impose a statewide stay-at-home order, Parson said she was playing politics.
Another Democrat, state Sen. Jill Schupp of Creve Coeur, who is running for a seat in Congress, said Parson’s reluctance sent a message that the spread of the disease might not be as worrisome as it should be.
“As a result, these disjointed directives have many Missourians questioning the seriousness of the pandemic,” Schupp said.
The governor’s move Friday drew praise from Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas, who imposed a shelter-in-place order on his city on March 21.
“This virus spreads quickly and knows no city, county, or state boundaries and, as such, all areas must take aggressive action to protect Missourians and Americans,” Lucas said.
Friday’s action marks the seventh pandemic-related executive order that Parson has issued since March 13. Others included postponing the April 7 election, easing certain regulations for licensing of health care workers and mobilizing the National Guard to assist with the state’s response.
On Thursday, he waived the requirement that sheriffs enforce the penalty on late renewals of concealed carry gun licenses.
The governor also has frozen $180 million in state spending, saying the state stands to lose as much as $500 million in revenue it had projected to receive in the fiscal year ending June 30.
In a sign that the long-term financial effects are going to be massive, Parson is urging lawmakers to give him the power to spend $2.5 billion in federal emergency aid.
In March, he told the House he thought $33 million would be enough.
According to preliminary budget documents obtained by the Post-Dispatch, one of the biggest chunks of money — $1 billion — would get distributed to cities and counties to help them fend off COVID-19.
Parson also wants to create a pool of more than $1 billion for the State Emergency Management Agency to help state and local agencies pay for the response.
Public schools and universities would get an influx of $500 million in federal assistance, under the plan.
The Department of Mental Health would receive nearly $6 million to assist mental illness treatment and suicide prevention associated with the pandemic.
On Tuesday, the Missouri Senate is scheduled to reconvene for the first time since March 11, when it scuttled its regular schedule out of concern for the spread of the virus.
The plan is for the Senate to approve the added spending and send it to the House, which left town March 19.
Both chambers are urging legislative staff, lobbyists and the public to stay away from the Capitol. Those who do enter will be screened for symptoms of the respiratory disease.
“The precautions that they are taking I think are pretty reasonable,” said Rep. Shamed Dogan, R-Ballwin.
Rep. Doug Beck, D-Affton, said he will wait in his office until he is called to the floor to vote.
But he’s also worried about someone coming into the Capitol and spreading the disease.
“What I’m concerned about is if somebody doesn’t tell the truth when they go in there. You’d have 163 people going back out into the state who’d been exposed,” Beck said.
The legislation is House Bill 2014.
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