On the day Missouri recorded its largest daily increase yet in COVID-19 infections, Gov. Mike Parson turned to President Theodore Roosevelt for words to answer his critics.
After having Director of Public Safety Sandy Karsten give an update on efforts to secure protective gear for hospitals, emergency medical workers and public safety employees, Parson took aim at "the people and the reporters that do nothing but criticize others."
He then turned to Roosevelt’s 1910 speech, "The Man in the Arena," saying he was speaking to doctors, nurses, first responders and others who are going to work each day including people in trucks and grocery stores.
"It is not the critic who counts; not the man or woman who points out how the strong man or woman stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better," Parson said, updating the language to include women.
Parson has been under fire for days since first the St. Louis, then Kansas City, Columbia and Springfield areas went under stay-at-home orders. On the day Boone County’s order took effect, there were 20 confirmed infections in Boone County and the first case of community spread.
On Saturday, the Columbia-Boone County Department of Health and Human Services reported 44 confirmed coronavirus infections in Boone County. That is up two from Friday. There are 13 cases of known community transmission, which means the infection was contracted in a manner where the person involved.
Statewide, when the order took effect, there were 255 known infections. On Saturday, the state reported 838 known infections in Missouri. There have been 11 deaths, one Friday in Camden County and the second death to be recorded in St. Charles County, which is not reflected in state figures.
Labor leaders are criticizing Parson’s decision not to classify grocery workers as "first responders" — which the local grocers union said should give its workers priority access to testing, the St. Louis-Post Dispatch reported.
Parson’s decision not to issue a stay-at-home order has been highlighted for criticism on the Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBC and Democratic lawmakers have also criticized him.
"I can't express my utter disappointment in his resistance to this," state Rep. Martha Stevens, D-Columbia, said in an interview Thursday.
Saturday’s state report showed at least one case in 54 of the 116 local county health department jurisdictions. The largest numbers continue to be in the state’s most populous counties, with 313 in St. Louis County and 93 within the city of St. Louis, Kansas City with 94 and Jackson County outside Kansas City with 43.
The novel coronavirus that emerged last year is spread by droplets in the air that carry the virus and by surfaces infected by those droplets or people’s hands. One of the first warnings in central Missouri identifying a particular place as a possible source for large numbers of infections came Saturday in Audrain County.
A Mexico Middle School teacher was in class on March 18 and March 19, while possibly showing symptoms. The Audrain County Health Department issued a warning that everyone who was at the school either day should contact their medical provider and seek testing if they show symptoms.
The teacher lives in Callaway County and is under quarantine. Callaway County on Saturday reported that it has identified community spread of the virus in two cases.
The state, which is slowly expanding its testing capacity, announced Saturday that health professionals who have close contact with suspected cases of COVID-19 disease and are showing symptoms such as fever, coughing or shortness of breath, are now eligible for testing. Previously, a test was only available if a person had traveled to an area known to have an outbreak and was showing symptoms or contact with a confirmed case and have symptoms.
Testing is still not available for people who show no symptoms, the department stated in the release.
State health Director Randall Williams, during Parson’s briefing, said the state will be giving doctors more latitude to order testing.
"We want you to use the tests for our state lab, which you can get back the next day, at your discretion, trusting your judgment about how best to work with patients, whether they be in nursing homes, or in hospitals, or under your care," Williams said, speaking directly to doctors.
Of the approximately 12,400 tests results reported to the state, nearly 2,600 of the samples were collected at two sites in Boone County.
Boone Hospital Center tested 47 people on Friday and 536 patients since March 12, the hospital stated in an email.
The drive-through testing site at the hospital has taken samples from 365 of those patients.
Boone Hospital, unlike many, is not yet facing a shortage of masks or other protective gear to protect workers and has no staffing issues, spokesman Ben Cornelius wrote in an email on Saturday.
"We currently have an adequate supply of all necessary PPE to protect patients and staff," he wrote. "We are in a good place currently regarding staffing. At this time we have not had to look at alternative staffing sources."
University of Missouri Health Care had collected 2,087 samples when spokesman Eric Maze reported the latest total Saturday afternoon.
Director of Public Safety Sandy Karsten gave another update on supplies of personal protective gear arriving to fulfill state orders.
"We continue our attempts and at this point are not aware of any orders for PPE that have been canceled," Karsten said, referring to issues other states are having with vendors selling to higher bidders or the federal government.
At Boone Hospital, Cornelius thanked the community for donations that are supporting health care workers. Donations are accepted at the south loading dock of Anthony Street from 8:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. each day, he said.
"One easy way to support our health care workers at this time is to follow orders and recommendations to stay home," Cornelius wrote.
In St. Louis, hospitals have begun rationing protective equipment for health workers out of fear that supplies could run out. Nurses and other front-line medical workers at BJC HealthCare, SSM Health, Mercy and a veterans hospital told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that hospital leaders are asking some staff to reuse masks, put limits on sanitation materials and set new policies on use of protective gear.
"With the unknown of what’s coming, and knowing that we’re seeing places across the country running into shortages, we have to examine what all our options are — to use our supplies and our PPE when necessary and appropriate, conserving it when that is also appropriate," Mercy spokesman Joe Poelker told the newspaper. "That’s a big task."
A doctor at St. Mary’s Hospital in St. Louis tested positive and is quarantined at home, SSM Health said. A statement said the doctor has not seen patients at the hospital since March 16 and did not show symptoms while at work.
Confirmed cases have been reported since Friday at three additional nursing homes in the St. Louis region — one in Town and Country, one in St. Peters, and a veterans home in north St. Louis County, according to local media reports. On Thursday, confirmed cases were reported for four residents and two employees were at Life Care Center of St. Louis. Three residents and an employee also have tested positive at a facility in St. Charles.
Nationally, the number of confirmed COVID-19 infections rose to 121,478 by 7 p.m. Saturday, with 2,026 deaths in the United States caused by the virus. That is an increase of about 20,000 cases in 24 hours.
Worldwide, the number of people who are known to be infected also continued to grow rapidly, to more than 660,000, an increase of 67,000 in 24 hours. There are 30,652 deaths worldwide blamed on the disease that emerged late last year, a death rate of about 4.6 percent among people with confirmed infections.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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