ST. LOUIS, Mo. – Missouri Governor Mike Parson made an appearance on FOX News Thursday to talk about mask mandates and reopening schools.
Missouri has the nation’s fourth-worst COVID-19 diagnosis rate over the past week, with one in every 360 people diagnosed with COVID-19. According to Johns Hopkins data, its seven-day rolling average of daily deaths has nearly doubled over the past two weeks.
U.S. health officials say the highly contagious delta version of the coronavirus is behind changes to mask guidelines. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this week announced that fully vaccinated people should resume wearing masks indoors if they live in areas where the virus is surging.
“We haven’t had a mandate in this state and we’re not going to do a mandate in this state. People know the situation we’re in and I trust the people to do the right thing. It is important to remember that this vaccine has only been available to the public for the last four to five months. We knew there was going to be a residency in populations across the country and we are seeing that. Trying to encourage people to get the vaccine is the right thing to do. Trying to enforce a mask mandate, trying to shut businesses down, and frankly, the changes the CDC changing their guidelines over two to three weeks, unjustified in my opinion,” said Gov. Parson.
CDC officials said new information about the spread of the delta variant forced them to reverse course. The agency also said teachers and students everywhere should go back to wearing masks in schools. The guidance for anyone who isn’t vaccinated stays the same: Masks are recommended indoors pretty much everywhere.
“We are getting mixed messages and people are totally confused, especially in our school systems. Last year 85 percent of Missouri students went to school in classrooms without vaccines, without incident. Now, all of the sudden, we are adding more regulations and confusing students and parents even more,” said Gov. Parson.
St. Louis County’s top elected official insists that a mask mandate remains in place, even though the county commission voted to overturn it. St. Louis County Executive Sam Page said Wednesday that the mask order that took effect countywide on Monday is valid, despite the County Council voting 5-2 on Tuesday to end it.
Across the state, meanwhile, Kansas City’s mayor said he would issue a similar mask order that will take effect Monday and last through at least Aug. 28. The St. Louis County mandate and one issued for the city of St. Louis led Missouri’s Republican attorney general to sue in an effort to stop them.
“They are in limbo as to what to do. It is totally confusing to the general public. When you that kind of confusion then people will not abide by anything. People know the situation we’re in. They know when to wear a mask and when not to. But you have to separate vaccinated from unvaccinated. You need to declare a difference between those two people,” said Gov. Parson.
Parson says that Missouri healthcare workers are getting some relief. Ambulances and other health care workers are being brought in from out of state. There is also a five million dollar marketing campaign to encourage vaccinations. An incentive program has also greatly increased vaccination rates.