Missouri’s governor says the “vast majority” of state employees who were tested after a COVID outbreak at a Jefferson City state office building have tested negative.

Governor Mike Parson briefs Capitol reporters in his Statehouse office in Jefferson City on July 7, 2021, as he signs Senate Bill 51 (photo courtesy of the governor’s Flickr page)

Governor Mike Parson (R) addressed the issue with Capitol reporters Wednesday morning, after a bill-signing ceremony in his Statehouse office. 15 state employees at the Truman Building tested positive last Monday, and the governor says the state acted immediately.

“I mean, we did about 80 to 100 tests right after that incident and the vast majority of them were negative. So, we were able to put things right on the ground there to do the testing sites immediately after that outbreak took place,” Parson says.

The state conducted a drive-through testing operation. The “Jefferson City News-Tribune” reports the 15 positive cases were all in one specific area of the Truman Building, which is near the Capitol.

Governor Parson says health investigators have not determined what caused the outbreak, in that part of the Truman Building.

“That was a little unusual just the way that happened in that particular division, but there was a lot of numbers there for no more people than was there, so we’re trying to figure out exactly why,” says Parson.

The governor tells Capitol reporters that state employees at other Jefferson City buildings have also been tested for COVID. He says state employees who’ve tested negative need to return to work, in-person. The governor instructed all state workers to resume in-person work, in May.

Meantime, the governor also confirms the state is considering an incentive program to encourage more Missourians to get vaccinated. He says he wants to do what he can to encourage more Missourians to take the COVID vaccine.

“We’re working on that right now and let me be clear: I’m not a huge fan of that (incentive programs), but I also want to move the needle in the state. If it helps, I think we need to try it,” Parson says.

The details of the incentive program are unclear, because it’s still being worked on. Incentive programs are in place in other states, including neighboring Illinois. And the “St. Louis Post-Dispatch” reports the St. Louis County Council voted last week 5-2 to approve an $875,000 incentive program, which provides gift cards to encourage vaccination.

Governor Parson says incentive programs have worked in some states, but not in others. He says he will want to see the data from Missouri’s program, adding that federal dollars will fund the incentive program.

The state Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) says 39.4 percent of Missourians have completed the COVID vaccination process. That’s about 2.4 million Missourians.

Missouri vaccinators have now administered more than five-million COVID vaccines, which includes the first and second doses. DHSS’ COVID dashboard says 2.7 million Missourians have initiated the vaccination process. Missouri’s vaccinators have given 50,802 shots in the past week, an average of 7,257 per day.

The governor spoke to reporters after signing Senate Bill 51, the COVID liability bill.

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