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Much of Missouri government hunkered down, but Parson says state ‘fully open’

Much of Missouri government hunkered down, but Parson says state ‘fully open’

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JEFFERSON CITY — Gov. Mike Parson said on Twitter Tuesday that “Missouri is FULLY OPEN,” even though much of state government remains hunkered down amid a pandemic that has killed at least 882 people in the state.

Parson, a Republican, last week announced he would allow the state’s social distancing order to expire on Monday, moving Missouri into “phase 2” of his reopening plan.

But don’t expect to visit the Governor’s Mansion. Tours of the building, where Parson resides, were still suspended Tuesday. So too were tours of the state Capitol, where Parson works.

“We are evaluating how to move forward in a safe manner,” said Connie Patterson, spokeswoman for the state parks division.

The Governor Office Building, which houses some state offices near the mansion and the Capitol, on Tuesday was also closed to the public, according to signs posted at the building’s entrances.

“We continue to be hopeful for the future,” Parson said at a news briefing Tuesday. “But again, we have to remember that COVID-19 is still out there. Even though Missouri’s now open, it is still highly encouraged to practice social distancing.”

State officials reported 225 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, and two more deaths.

New COVID-19 hospitalizations in the St. Louis area increased over the weekend, with five new admissions Saturday and 10 on Sunday, according to the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force. The seven-day average of new admissions decreased, from 15 to 14.

The task force said the seven-day moving average of hospitalizations ticked up from 251 to 252, while the number of patients on ventilators and in ICU decreased.

Some state-run campgrounds, meanwhile, are operating at 50% capacity to allow for social distancing, said Carol Comer, director of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.

Comer, on Tuesday, said the agency still hasn’t started up all tours it previously conducted and said many employees in the environmental inspection division continue to work remotely.

“It has been a wild three months,” Comer said.

Chris Moreland, spokesman for the state Office of Administration, said 31% of the state’s workforce was continuing to work remotely. “For the time being, we will continue to encourage working remotely if possible as we have been,” he said.

In the attorney general’s office, staff are returning to work on a “staggered basis, with half of the staff coming in one week and the rest of the staff the next week,” said Chris Nuelle, spokesman for Attorney General Eric Schmitt, a Republican.

A spokeswoman for State Treasurer Scott Fitzpatrick, a Republican, said that office’s intent was to have all employees return to office work by July 6.

“We were not entirely remote” during the pandemic, said Mary Compton, treasurer’s office spokeswoman. “Some functions of the Treasurer’s Office can only be completed in the office. We had as many people as possible working from home. We have gradually added staff back over the last few weeks.”

The Missouri Supreme Court, meanwhile, held virtual arguments Monday.

Workers within the Missouri Department of Conservation continue to work remotely, said Joe Jerek, spokesman for the agency.

“Most of us are working from home and it is going well,” he said in an email. “We are looking at opening facilities in early July with specific dates being done by region and office. Here in Jeff City, we are returning to the office on July 6.”

And the state’s prisons haven’t fully reopened, either.

The Department of Corrections will “unfortunately” keep a suspension on visits in place past Father’s Day weekend, according to a letter sent to inmate family and friends on Monday.

“However, we are finalizing plans to begin implementing new visiting procedures in Missouri state prisons in the coming weeks,” the letter said. “Visiting start dates will vary from prison to prison.”

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