Missouri launches coronavirus hotline as cancellations mount
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri on Wednesday launched a 24-hour hotline staffed by medical professionals for people seeking guidance on the new coronavirus, as cancellations mounted at universities and the state Capitol because of concerns over the disease.
Missouri Senate Majority Leader Caleb Rowden said on Twitter late Wednesday that the chamber was cancelling its session next week “as we work to ensure the safety of our members and Capitol guests” from the new coronavirus.
The announcement came a day after legislative leaders had urged people not directly participating in legislative business to stay away from the Capitol. The building nonetheless remained crowded with people Wednesday.
The U.S. Department of Health and Senior Services announced on Wednesday that Missouri will receive $9.9 million as its share of coronavirus funding recently approved by Congress.
The state Department of Health and Senior Services said residents and medical providers needing advice on the virus can call 877-435-8411 at any time on any day. It said the phone number became active Wednesday morning.
As of Wednesday, 65 people in Missouri had been tested for the virus that causes COVID-19 but just one has tested positive, Gov. Mike Parson said via Twitter. That person is a St. Louis County resident who traveled to Italy for a study abroad program.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.
The vast majority of people recover from the new virus. According to the World Health Organization, people with mild illness recover in about two weeks, while those with more severe illness may take three to six weeks to recover.
Universities are taking action to proactively address virus concerns, including the University of Missouri in Columbia. Chancellor Alexander Cartwright announced Wednesday afternoon that in-person classes will be suspended beginning at 5 p.m. Wednesday. In-person classes are scheduled to resume March 30, following spring break.
Washington University announced Wednesday that it would suspend in-person classes until at least April 30, which is shortly before the end of the semester. Chancellor Andrew Martin said in a message to students that spring break, which began this week, will be extended for an additional week before classes resume online on March 23. The university also said it was closing its on-campus housing for undergraduates, instead directing them to finish the semester from their permanent home addresses.
St. Louis University said Tuesday that it would suspend most in-person classes next week while it evaluates what to do going forward. Maryville University also announced Tuesday that it was suspending on-campus classes until March 30 while evaluating its next steps. And Webster University said it was moving all classes online starting Monday through April 3.
Meanwhile, Springfield is canceling a St. Patrick’s Day parade that usually attracts a crowd of about 7,500 people amid concerns about the outbreak.
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