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Missouri Capitol to close for two weeks

Missouri Capitol to close for two weeks

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JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri’s Capitol building is shutting down for two weeks to try and combat the spread of the coronavirus, meaning there will be no legislative action under the dome until sometime after April 6.

The announcement by Gov. Mike Parson also means visitors hoping to tour the century-old seat of state government will be turned away as part of the state’s reaction to the global pandemic.

“The health and safety of all Missourians, including our state workforce, is our top priority,” Parson said.

Parson, who has held briefings on the state’s response to COVID-19 for the past week, made his announcement with no media present as part of an effort to comply with his own order to keep public gatherings under 10 people.

The decision to shutter the building came after Friday’s revelation that a member of the House, Rep. Joe Runions, D-Grandview, was hospitalized with COVID-19.

Runions, 79, shares an office suite on the first floor of the building with eight other Democrats. Those who sat with him in committee hearings or nearby on the House floor quickly announced self-quarantines.

He was last in the building on March 13.

Since then, the number of positive cases across Missouri has jumped to over 180.

Lawmakers also have put their plans on hold during the outbreak.

The administration also was moving Monday to allow state workers who could work remotely to do so, leaving parking lots around state office building less than two-thirds full.

Parson earlier announced he wants people to limit gatherings to no more than 10 people at a time, but that won’t work at state facilities like prisons and mental health centers, where workers, inmates and patients are in constant contact.

“We are still providing essential services,” said Office of Administration Commissioner Sarah Steelman.

Some Capitol denizens have already left the building. Last week, Treasurer Scott Fitzpatrick announced his staff of about 40 were working from home.

Sandra Karsten, director of the Missouri Department of Public Safety, said her agency continues to scour the globe for personal protection equipment for law enforcement agencies and doctors.

An estimated 500,000 items, including gowns, masks, shields and gloves, have gone to 147 hospitals and emergency medical providers in the past week.

“That helped relieve their needs, but we know it’s only temporary,” Karsten said.

Parson also signed an executive order suspending enforcement of local rules that prohibit restaurants from selling unprepared foods.

He said the sale of such items could ensure people don’t run out of food during the pandemic.

The state also is waiving a state statute for health care providers in other states to use telehealth to help treat Missouri residents.

The administration also waived some rules regarding pharmacists and nurses to make it easier to treat patients.

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