Missouri’s reported deaths from COVID-19 on Tuesday matched the previous high of 19 — already reached twice during the coronavirus pandemic — as models show an increasing projection of total deaths from the disease.


The state Department of Health and Senior Services reported 298 new infections, with 245 of the cases in the state’s two largest metropolitan areas. The state now has confirmed 4,686 infections through testing. The state has recorded 133 deaths.


The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation model created by the University of Washington as little as a week ago showed Missouri could expect as few as 352 deaths from the pandemic. On Tuesday, that number had grown to 1,701 deaths, peaking at about 50 on April 29.


That is also two days after state lawmakers plan to return to Jefferson City to continue their annual legislative session interrupted by the onset of COVID-19. The General Assembly met last week to pass a $6 billion supplemental bill, but was in session only one day.


At his daily briefing, Gov. Mike Parson said he is confident lawmakers can meet safely.


"As long as they abide by the rules, and be careful on the safety issues, on the social distancing, I think it will be fine for them to come to work," Parson said.


Asked about non-budget priorities for lawmakers, Parson said it was to make residents feel safe and get the economy moving after massive job losses.


"If we don't do those two things, most of the rest of the priorities are not going to matter much," he said.


On Tuesday, the state’s share of the $2.2 trillion federal relief program began arriving. Payments from the IRS ranging from $1,200 to $3,400 per household have been deposited in the accounts of many Missourians.


The Missouri Department of Labor and Industrial Relations began sending out unemployment payments with an extra $600 in addition to the standard state benefit, the department stated in a news release.


Anyone who is eligible for at least $1 of unemployment compensation benefits during the week will receive the additional $600 per week. Anyone who is receiving unemployment payments will receive retroactive payments for each week since March 29, the department stated.


There have been more than 16 million claims nationally for new unemployment benefits in the past three weeks, with more than 235,000 of those claims filed in Missouri. The job losses are continuing, with six new mass layoff notices posted this week for 446 jobs.


The U.S. Department of Transportation announced that it was releasing $152.5 million to support airports, including money to sustain operations and an increase in the federal share of ongoing improvement projects to 100 percent of the cost.


Many small airports will receive $30,000 payments, with larger payments to busier general aviation airports and those that provide commercial passenger service.


And Parson’s office announced the state has received $61.7 million to support rural transit agencies, including OATS Transit, which serves 87 counties and has its headquarters in Columbia.


The state is also receiving another$54.6 million for distribution to public schools and higher education institutions, U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt announced. Blunt, R-Mo., said the funds are in addition to $206 million provided to higher education institutions and $208 million sent to public schools.


The increase of almost 300 new infections is the largest in a week and comes as some mayors are discussing whether to extend stay-at-home orders that expire April 24.


On Tuesday, Parson said he expects restrictions to be lifted in phases. While some states are working to create region-wide plans, he said Missouri will watch what others do but not be linked to decisions in other states.


"The end of the day, you are going to have to put your state first above everybody else and see what is best for our state," Parson said.


The largest outbreaks of disease continue to be in the state’s largest metropolitan areas.



State data shows there are 1,851 cases in St. Louis County, an increase of 127 from Monday, and 695 in the city of St. Louis, an increase of 56. There are 368 cases in St. Charles County, up 22 from Monday.


On the other side of the state, Kansas City added 17 cases to bring its total confirmed cases to 346, and Jackson County outside the city had 237, an increase of 14 from Monday.


Boone County’s local confirmed case count rose to 83 on Tuesday, up four, with the state report showing 87 cases, five more than Monday. The count in Greene County increased by two to 73.


MU Health Care’s testing service had completed almost 3,772 tests, with 102 positive results. Boone Hospital Center has performed 1,036 tests, with 18 positive results.


The largest number of cases outside the state’s four largest metro areas is in Johnson County, with 39.


In central Missouri, Cole County’s confirmed count increased one to 38; Callaway County’s numbers remained at 20; Randolph County with eight saw no increase; Montineau County’s count increased one to four infections; Cooper County is unchanged at four; Howard County had two and Audrain County has yet to record an infection.


Overall, the state has tested 48,803 people.


Nationally, at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday the U.S. was approaching 600,000 confirmed cases, up 16,900 from late Monday afternoon, with 25,163 deaths attributed to COVID-19. Worldwide, the virus is known to have infected almost 2 million people and is blamed for 125,476 deaths.


rkeller@columbiatribune.com


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