JEFFERSON CITY — Leaders of the Missouri House and Senate are urging school groups and other lobbying organizations to stay away from the Capitol during the coronavirus outbreak.
In a joint statement issued Tuesday, the leaders of both chambers said they hope reducing the number of visitors in the building reduces the spread of the disease.
Missouri currently has one presumptive case of the virus, according to the state Department of Health and Senior Services.
“It is out of an abundance of caution that the General Assembly is taking the preventive steps to minimize the risk of an outbreak in Missouri,” said House Speaker Elijah Haahr, R-Springfield. “While the General Assembly continues to conduct business as normal, we will closely monitor the situation to take necessary actions to maintain a safe environment that will ensure the health and well-being of all those who work in, and visit, the Capitol.”
“Schools, advocacy groups, and the public at large should strongly consider the reality that a large and diverse population travels to and from the Capitol on a daily basis,” added Senate President Pro Tem Dave Schatz, R-Sullivan. “Most people will not be at risk, but, as with any other infectious disease, we need to remain vigilant because populations we may come in contact with, such as the elderly or those with weakened immune systems, are at risk.”
Lawmakers meet each year from January until mid-May to enact laws and approve a state budget. That brings large groups to the building to rally for various issues and to lobby for funding. The building also is a magnet for school groups across the state to tour.
On Tuesday, for example, a large number of retired teachers descended on the marble-lined corridors. Other groups in the building included grocery store owners and activists for assisted living facilities.
Wednesday’s schedule includes firefighters and a group from Truman State University.
In addition to urging the public to stay away, the House is closing the floor of the House Chamber to the public, as well as the House Lounge “which are difficult to disinfect on a regular basis.”
The announcement comes as lawmakers are set to begin their annual spring break on March 19. While they are out of the building, officials plan to deep clean the hallways, meeting rooms and offices.
Building workers also installed foot-operated door pulls on bathroom doors so users do not have to touch the doorknob when they exit.
The advisory issued by the Legislature comes after Gov. Mike Parson canceled a trip to Europe and the Middle East.
Parson had been scheduled to depart Thursday for Greece, Israel, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates to meet with businesses about expanding in Missouri and to visit Missouri-based military troops. He had been scheduled to return to Missouri on March 22.
Missouri’s decision to try and limit visitors comes as Connecticut also has urged groups to stay away from its Capitol. In Texas, officials canceled most legislative hearings in the building because of the outbreak.
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