Facing Mounting Pressure, Missouri Governor Mike Parson Issues Stay-At-Home Order
Missouri will be under a statewide stay-at-home order starting at 12:01 a.m. Monday, April 6, after Republican Gov. Mike Parson announced the directive Friday. The order continues through 11:59 p.m. Friday, April 24.
The order comes after the state’s confirmed COVID-19 cases rose to more than 2,100 on Friday. That’s a sharp increase since the Missouri State Medical Association called for statewide action more than a week ago and Kansas City and St. Louis business and health care leaders urged action in a letter sent to the governor on March 19. By Thursday, about 70% of Missourians were already under county or city stay-at-home orders.
Parson had faced mounting pressure to issue a statewide order. At the start of the week, more than 30 states, including Kansas, had statewide shelter-in-place mandates, according to the New York Times.
The governor defended his refusal to issue a statewide order until now, saying that his earlier March 21 social-distancing order banning gatherings of more than 10 people was "exactly where Missouri needed to be at that time."
He said 24,727 people in Missouri had been tested for the coronavirus and 2,113, or 8.5%, had tested positive, with at least one case in 76 of Missouri's 114 counties. About 22%, he said, had been hospitalized and 19 have died.
"Together we must continue to control to contain and fight this virus to stay ahead of the battle," Parson said. "As the governor of the state of Missouri, I'm ordering a statewide stay-at-home order for all Missourians beginning at 12:01 a.m. Monday, April the 6th, until 11:59 p.m. Friday April the 24th. This order requires individuals currently residing within the state of Missouri (to) avoid leaving their homes or places of residence."
In the days leading up to Friday’s order, Parson had emphasized the changing nature of the situation. He said local cities and counties were best equipped to make such decisions.
Parson had faced a barrage of criticism for holding off on a statewide order, and he appeared to be responding to that criticism on Friday.
"It is just not about encouraging people to stay home," he said. "I have done that every day in these weekly briefings for two weeks: encourage people to stay at home. It is having the power of governor to pick winners and losers and whether I feel it is appropriate for me to use the power by determining who is essential and who is not.
"This power is something I think should be rare for government to ever take advantage of and for one person to make the decision for 6 million Missourians without due process jeopardizing their liberties."
Parson noted that more than 100,000 Missourians have filed unemployment claims in the last two weeks "and I'm sure they would all tell you that their jobs were essential."
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Thursday that every state should have a stay-at-home order.
"You know, the tension between federally mandated versus states' rights to do what they want is something I don't want to get into," Fauci said during a CNN interview. "But if you look at what's going on in this country, I just don't understand why we're not doing that."
Projections by the University of Washington estimate about 1,290 people will die from COVID-19 in Missouri by early August if current trends continue.
Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas applauded Parson's decision, however belated, in a Twitter post.
Lucas issued a citywide order on March 21, requiring Kansas Citians to stay at home except for "essential activities," including grocery stores, pharmacies, gas stations and health care facilities. He also closed all schools through April 24, when he said he plans to review the order and, if necessary, update it.
The Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce also praised Parson's order in a statement, saying it had “urged Governor Parson to take this step.”
“The Coronavirus doesn’t recognize state, county, or city lines,” said Joe Reardon, president and CEO of the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce. “This order will save Missourians’ lives and help flatten the curve for our frontline medical professionals.”
Aviva Okeson-Haberman is the Missouri government and politics reporter at KCUR 89.3. Follow her on Twitter: @avivaokeson.
Dan Margolies is a senior reporter and editor at KCUR. You can reach him on Twitter @DanMargolies.