Gov. Mike Parson announced today that more than 1,300 people have tested positive for the coronavirus and fourteen people have died. Some 15,600 people have been tested for the respiratory disease.

Gov. Mike Parson (Photos courtesy of Parson’s Flickr page)

Parson opened up the briefing by mentioning that state and federal officials are looking at several potential temporary hospital sites around the state to care for coronavirus patients if needed. Parson says they have three main questions in mind.

“Including located in areas with the possibility of deficient bed counts, areas large enough for patient population and areas where utilities are available to start immediate construction if necessary,” says Parson.

Potential sites include the Kemper Arena and Independence Event Center in Kansas City, Hearnes Center in Columbia, the Edward Jones Dome and America’s Center in St. Louis, the Show-Me Center in Cape Girardeau, Hammons Student Center and JQH Arena in Springfield and Missouri Southern State University’s Leggett and Platt Athletic Center in Joplin.

Missouri’s website to file unemployment claims apparently crashed after too many people were trying to submit claims. Parson says the problem has been fixed but the office continues to be flooded with calls and claims.

“There’s just thousands upon thousands of people trying to reach that office every day,” says Parson. “And we’re doing everything we can to process those claims and we’ll continue to do that. We’ve got people working around the clock over there and again, these are just things that’s never happened before and we’ve just got to work through them.”

For the week ending March 21, more than 42,000 unemployment claims were filed, up from nearly 4,000 filed the previous week.

State Auditor Nicole Galloway is calling on the governor to issue a statewide stay-at-home order to help curb the spread of the coronavirus. Galloway, a Democrat running for governor, says public health experts, organizations representing healthcare workers, business and faith leaders, local governments and others have urged Parson to issue the order. Parson responded to Galloway’s call.

Missouri Department of Natural Resources Director Carol Comer

“I would say the state auditor needs to worry about being the state auditor right now,” says Parson. “All of us elected officials right now need to have one thing in mind – it’s what do we do to help with the COVID-19 situation. This is not the time to play politics out of this issue and try to figure out who gets one up. There will be plenty of time for that down the road. Plenty of time, but today is not the time.”

To address overcrowding and social distancing problems over the weekend, state Department of Natural Resources Director Carol Comer says Missouri is temporarily closing four state parks and partially closing another one.

The state parks closing are Castlewood, Elephant Rocks, Watkins Woolen Mill State Historic Site and Park, and Weston Bend. St. Joe State Park will close the off-road vehicle riding area. The changes take effect at 5 p.m. on Thursday and are scheduled to continue until April 30.

Missouri Department of Corrections Director Anne Precythe

At the time of the press conference, Missouri Department of Corrections Director Anne Precythe says there are no positive cases within the prison system. She says a prisoner who previously tested positive for COVID-19 has since tested negative twice. He remains in the hospital for other health problems.

Two staff who do not work in a prison have tested positive. Eighteen inmates have been tested. Thirteen have tested negative. Four are pending and the other one is the case that is now negative.

The toilet paper craze has led the TP factory within the former Crossroads Correctional Center in northwest Missouri’s Cameron to boost its hours of operation. Precythe says the factory has ramped up production by 20%.

“Increasing hours of run time by adding an additional shift, has allowed us to manufacture approximately 3,500 cases of tissue each week,” says Precythe.

Each case contains 96 rolls of tissue. Government agencies and nonprofits can buy the TP through Missouri Vocational Enterprises.

The Jefferson City Correctional Center in mid Missouri is making 4,000 protective gowns.

“The Veterans Commission reached out to us with the need for protective gowns,” says Precythe. “Our clothing plant in Jefferson City created a prototype, which has been approved.”

Missouri’s seven veterans homes are in Cameron, Cape Girardeau, Mexico, Mount Vernon, St. James, St. Louis and Warrensburg.

Missouri Department of Public Safety Director Sandy Karsten

Keeping social distance during severe weather could be complicated. The tornado shelter director in southern Missouri’s Houston, Glenn McKinney, reached out to Missourinet this week, to say he hadn’t received any direction from the state about how to strike that balance. At today’s press briefing, state Public Safety Director Sandy Karsten says the number one priority is to take shelter.

“I know it has to be on the minds of many Missourians as we face severe weather forecasts and certainly watch what has happened in our neighboring states,” says Karsten. “In the situation of tornado safe rooms, we would ask that you also have a plan in which you consider the social distancing – the no more than 10 people and six feet apart. We understand that that may be difficult in certain situations.”

Missourians can take shelter and also protect themselves from coronavirus germs by covering their face, eyes and body.

Watch today’s press briefing below.

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