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FULTON, Mo. – Missouri’s governor said Tuesday if he ordered a mask mandate statewide, would he have to also order vaccinations for all?

The Missouri Hospital Association, healthcare systems, and even some cities have called on Gov. Mike Parson to issue a statewide mask mandate, but he said Tuesday he is standing by his decision to let the local levels decide.

In an interview with our Missouri Capitol Bureau Reporter Emily Manley, the governor reiterated his opposition to a statewide mandate but is he urging Missourians to wear a mask.

“You know, Missourians have to take that responsibility on themselves and I believe they will,” Parson said. “Whether you’re in rural Missouri or whether you’re in urban (areas), the message is the same.”

No matter where you live, Parson said Missourians need to take the virus seriously.

“These numbers are going up in rural areas and are going up in urban areas regardless of where the restrictions are. We got to pay attention to this virus, it’s serious,” Parson said. “The next several months are going to be very important.”

The governor is standing firm with his decision to give local government control.

“I’m always going to allow those local levels to make those decisions and I think for the most part they are, all across the state, they understand the situation and they are implementing policy,” Parson said.

Parson stopped by the Calloway County Community testing site in Fulton to thank the National Guard for its help.

Last week, the Missouri Hospital Association sent the governor a letter urging him to issue a statewide mask mandate. When asked about the letter Tuesday, Parson said he’s worried about hospitals.

“But it’s a bit concerning, yes,” Parson said. “I don’t think there’s any doubt we are keeping a real close eye on those numbers.”

For months, Parson has repeatedly said he’s against a statewide mask mandate, adding he has no plans to change his position.

“The masks are important. We all know that; we all believe that they really have a good purpose. But when you start mandating masks, from the governor’s position, one person, what do you do with the vaccine?” Parson said. “You know, the vaccine is going to be here in 30, 40 days. Do you really want the governor of the state of Missouri to say, ‘Every man, woman, and child is going to be mandated to take a vaccine,’ cause that’s the road you go down.”

Instead, the governor said it’s up to each Missourian to do the right thing.

“It’s going to take that responsibility for all of us, and again, I just encourage people to really take that extra step and the extra time to realize who’s at risk, how do you protect one another and how do we move forward in this state,” Parson said.

Senate Majority Leaders announced Monday the Senate would postpone the special session until after Thanksgiving due to COVID cases among members and staff. Parson said this shows the virus affects anyone.

“It’s always concerning when you have the Senate body itself and you have an outbreak in either one of the chambers because there is a function of government, they all have to do, but at the end of the day, they are no different than anybody else too,” Parson said. “The virus can go anywhere in the state, can attack anybody and it did, so we just have to kind of be patient, we will kind of have to postpone some of the official duties that they have until they can come back safely and perform.”

Upon the Senate’s return, the legislative body will discuss COVID liability protection and distribution of the CARES Act funding.