AP NEWS

Parson: Hospitalizations down sharply in most areas of state

April 28, 2020 GMT
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A man wears a Kansas City Chiefs protective mask while waiting for a flyover of aircraft from nearby Whiteman Air Force base Tuesday, April 28, 2020, at the Liberty Memorial in Kansas City, Mo. The flyover included one B-2 Spirit stealth bomber, two A-10 Thunderbolt IIs and four T-38 Talons and flew over several metro hospitals as a tribute to healthcare workers fighting COVID-19. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
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A man wears a Kansas City Chiefs protective mask while waiting for a flyover of aircraft from nearby Whiteman Air Force base Tuesday, April 28, 2020, at the Liberty Memorial in Kansas City, Mo. The flyover included one B-2 Spirit stealth bomber, two A-10 Thunderbolt IIs and four T-38 Talons and flew over several metro hospitals as a tribute to healthcare workers fighting COVID-19. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

O’FALLON, Mo. (AP) — Coronavirus hospitalizations across Missouri are down significantly since peaking in early April, a key parameter in allowing the state to reopen, Gov. Mike Parson said Tuesday.

The Republican governor has outlined several metrics that he considers important in his decision to allow businesses and organizations to reopen starting Monday. During a news conference, he focused on key data used in making the decision.

Parson said hospitalizations peaked at 1,142 on April 7 and have since declined dramatically everywhere except the St. Louis area, which has seen an 8% increase.

But Parson said hospitalizations are down 41% in the Kansas City area, more than 60% in the northeast and southwest of the state, and 38% to 45% elsewhere. He also cited increasing availability of testing and the availability of 1,100 ventilators as reasons for getting the state back up and running.

“Our hospitals are not overwhelmed and things are improving,” Parson said.

The governor’s comments came on a day when the state health department reported 26 new deaths, bringing the total to 314. Confirmed cases rose by 132 to 7,303. The actual number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested and studies suggest that people can be infected without feeling sick.

For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.

Some states have already begun reopening despite concerns that doing so will cause a new spike in cases and deaths.

Dan Mehan, CEO of the Missouri Chamber of Commerce, said the shutdown has caused a significant strain on businesses. He said a recent survey showed that Missouri businesses expect to lose a quarter of their revenue for the year, and that 15% of firms will likely go out of business.

Parson’s reopening order will not apply to St. Louis, St. Louis County, Kansas City or Jackson County. Democratic leaders in the state’s four largest jurisdictions have said they won’t reopen until mid-May at the earliest.

The statewide order allows religious services to resume, but black pastors in St. Louis worry that it’s too soon.

Officials with the St. Louis Clergy Coalition said they’re concerned that reopening churches will worsen the pandemic in the already hard-hit black community. About 30% of all cases in Missouri — and 40% of deaths — involve black residents, even though just 12% of the state’s population is black. The percentage is even worse in the St. Louis area, which makes up more than half of all cases and two-thirds of all deaths in the state.

The coalition’s president, Bishop Elijah Hankerson, said in a statement that medical professionals, “not the politicians,” should decide when it’s safe to go back to church.

Another black leader, pastor and activist Darryl Gray, agreed.

“Why should people who are already suffering disproportionately in so many other ways subject themselves to sickness and possible death?” Gray asked.

The remains of seven people are now at the temporary St. Louis County morgue, county officials said Tuesday. The facility opened recently as the permanent morgue neared capacity due to the coronavirus, which has claimed 157 lives in the county.

The Missouri Democratic Party announced that the 2020 Democratic State Convention will be held virtually rather than in-person, due to the virus.