JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Missouri is reporting more than 1,300 new COVID-19 cases and 12 deaths Wednesday and Governor Mike Parson said the increase in positive cases is among college-age students.
Parson said people between the ages of 18 to 24 aren’t taking the virus seriously and are causing the state’s positive COVID-19 numbers to increase. All Missouri public schools, universities, and colleges return to school this week and the governor said they all have a plan in place if numbers to continue to rise.
“We want our kids in school and we will continue to do everything we can to keep them safe, healthy, and moving forward,” Parson said. “We know there is a lot of concern regarding college students, but I want to assure you that our colleges and universities have plans in place.”
The University of Missouri has reported more than 1,100 cases since reopening at the end of August.
Parson is asking local leaders to help schools slow the spread with CARES Act funding.
“I’m encouraging all county commissioners on those local levels to use that money for testing and contact tracing,” Parson said. “I think that’s crucial to keep these schools open and to keep things safe.”
Parson said Director of the Department of Health and Senior Services Dr. Randall Williams and Director of the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Margie Vandeven met with the leader of the Missouri schools and local public health agencies Wednesday to assess COVID-19 mitigation strategies, state guidance for school masking, contact tracing, quarantine, and isolation.
Besides COVID-19, Missouri is also fighting an increase in crime.
“Violent crime in our state has been a problem in our state long before COVID-19,” Parson said.
The governor’s special session on violent crime is now on its seventh week and concurrent jurisdiction of St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner’s office still needs approval in the House.
“I haven’t spoken to House leadership since the Senate passed that,” Parson said. “I’m not sure what their plans are at this point, but again, we are encouraging them to pass this to give law enforcement the tools they need to fight.”
Gov. Parson announced a $1 million grant to the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis to help crackdown on violent in the city. This federal grant will help expand the league’s “Serving Our Streets” initiative.
Parson said he’s proud of lawmakers agreeing to create a witness protection program, House Bill 66, and approving to reduce residency requirements for St. Louis public safety workers, House Bill 46.
“The St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department is currently down by more than 140 officers and this legislation can help fill that gap,” Parson said.
Both HB 46 and HB 66 are awaiting the governor’s signature before becoming state law. Legislators still have to appropriate funding to the witness protection program. The bill’s sponsor hopes the general assembly will appropriate $1 million dollars during veto session.
Lawmakers will return to the Capitol next week for a veto session, where the House is also expected to vote on HB 2, HB 11, and HB 16, which the Senate sent back to them. Since senators and representatives are returning, the Department of Health and Senior Services will be offering COVID-19 testing for those working in the statehouse.