COVID-19 Information for the Week of April 6, 2020
|Legislative Session Update
The Missouri General Assembly reconvened this week to pass a supplemental budget to help combat the spread of the coronavirus.
On April 7, the Senate’s Appropriations Committee heard House Bill 2014, a supplemental budget bill authorizing up to $6.2 billion in spending authority, much of which is expected to come from federal relief packages. HB 2014 will allow the state to provide aid to local governments, help purchase personal protective equipment, fund nursing homes and childcare facilities and provide funding to schools and university across the state. While discussing the bill, Sen. Nasheed fought to protect the general revenue funding for Missouri’s two Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Harris-Stowe State University and Lincoln University. Senator Nasheed believes that these higher education institutions deserve to receive more state support, and she is committed to doing everything she can to make sure these institutions receive their fair share of state funding.
Senators also heard House Bill 2456, which extends Missouri’s Federal Reimbursement Allowance (FRA) tax program until 2021. The taxes collected through this program help draw down federal funds to pay for Missouri’s Medicaid program, MO HealthNet. Both HB 2014 and HB 2456 were voted out of committee on April 7 and approved by the General Assembly on April 8.
Update on Coronavirus in Missouri
On April 3, the governor signed a statewide stay at home order, effective April 6, 2020, through April 24, 2020.
On April 6, the governor signed an executive order suspending a statutory requirement that a notary public must conduct the notarization of official documents while the signer appears personally in front of them. The order allows notaries to use audio-video technology to complete the personal appearance requirement, protecting the health and safety of both the notaries and the signers. The order is valid until May 15, 2020, unless extended.
On April 8, the governor announced that Missouri is moving forward with its first alternate care site to assist hospitals in the St. Louis region treating an increased number of COVID-19 patients.
After an extensive review by Missouri’s Alternate Care Site Working Group, a hotel in Florissant is currently being converted into a care facility and could be utilized as early as next week if necessary. If necessary, the Florissant site could accommodate more than 100 people and be used to house individuals who test positive for COVID-19 with mild or no symptoms, as well as individuals exposed to COVID-19 and identified and referred by health care professionals as requiring treatment, but not hospitalization.
On April 9, the governor announced that all Missouri public and charter school buildings will remain closed through the remainder of the academic year. School services are expected to continue through the last day of school in each school district as pre-established by the academic calendar approved by their local board of education. These continued services include alternative educational opportunities as well as providing much-needed meals to students who count on them.
Meanwhile, residents in St. Louis City and St. Louis County are being asked to continue abiding by important health and safety precautions as a variety of faiths celebrate the upcoming holidays. Health departments are encouraging people to take advantage of online or televised worship services; continue family traditions through video chat or phone calls; and celebrate in person with those they live with. Individuals should avoid attending in-person worship services; congregating in public areas and in large groups; inviting others to celebrate at their home; and attending celebrations outside of their home.
As of April 9:
· The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) reported more than 3,500 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Missouri.
· The City of St. Louis Department of Health reported 565 cases in the City of St. Louis.
St. Louis City Update
The City of St. Louis Department of Health has sent out crisis management guidance for essential critical infrastructure workers. It states essential critical infrastructure workers (including law enforcement and corrections officers) may be permitted to continue working following potential exposure to COVID-19, provided they remain asymptomatic and additional precautions are implemented to protect the community. The following practices should be implemented prior to and during their work shift by employers of essential critical infrastructure workers who have had an exposure and remain asymptomatic.
· Self-monitor under the supervision of their employer’s occupational health program, including taking their temperature before each work shift to ensure they remain afebrile.
· On days these individuals are scheduled to work, the employer should measure the employee’s temperature and assess symptoms prior to their starting work.
· The employee should wear a facemask at all times while in the workplace until 14 days after their last exposure.
· The employee should practice social distancing as much as possible.
· If the employee becomes sick during the day, they should be separated from other employees and sent home immediately.
· Employees should not share headsets or other objects.
· Employees should avoid taking breaks together and congregating in break areas. Consider staggering breaks to reduce time spent together.
· Employers should increase frequency of cleaning commonly touched surfaces.
· Testing of asymptomatic employees is not recommended.
St. Louis County Update
Senator Nasheed believes the effects of COVID-19 have amplified the region’s food needs. With that in mind, the St. Louis County Library and Operation Food Search have been providing drive-thru food pick-up for children since March 30. Participating branches are providing two shelf-stable breakfasts and two lunches on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, while supplies last. Further information can be found on the library’s website. An additional list of food resources can be found on the St. Louis County’s website.
Additionally, the health department is urging individuals to use available resources to help deal with the difficult situations many are facing. If someone is feeling overwhelmed with emotions like sadness, depression or anxiety, or feels like they might want to harm themselves or others, please contact one of the following:
· Call 911
· Contact Behavioral Health Response (BHR): 314-469-6644 (immediate access to a counselor or social worker, free of charge)
· Mid-Missouri Crisis Line: Text “HAND” to 839863
· Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA’s) Disaster Distress Helpline: 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746. (TTY 1-800-846-8517)
· National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8225) or visit www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org
Lastly, Sen. Nasheed would like to make her constituents aware of an opportunity to give back to their community during this difficult time. The Greater St. Louis One Million Mask Drive is a volunteer effort to provide free, fabric face masks to local health care workers and first responders in our region. For those who would like to donate fabric or sew masks, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
To stay informed about the impact of COVID-19 on St. Louis County, individuals can sign up for text message alerts. Messages are only disseminated during reasonable hours of the day and the content is focused on the most important topics and/or services. To sign up for them, text: STLOUISCOALERT to 67283. To stop receiving alerts, text: STOP STLOUISCOALERT to 67283.
Unemployment and Workers’ Compensation Updates
The Missouri Department of Labor and Industrial Relations’ (DOLIR) Division of Employment Security (DES) received its first operational guidance related to the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) program under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The FPUC program is just one of the new programs provided under the CARES Act.
The FPUC does not include any provisions or benefits for eligible self-employed workers. On April 5, DOLIR received federal guidance on that provision, the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program. Because of the complexity of the PUA, DOLIR will need to analyze the information to effectively implement the federal guidance. DOLIR will proceed as expeditiously as possible.
The FPUC provides that those eligible for at least one dollar of unemployment compensation benefits during the week will receive an additional $600 per week as a federal supplement. The DES expects FPUC payments to begin going out to eligible recipients as early as the week of April 12, after the technology updates and procedures are implemented. The $600 federal supplement for those that are unemployed will be effective beginning March 29, 2020, for those filing their unemployment payment request for that week. Payments will be made retroactively for claims filed on or after March 29, 2020. The last payable week for the $600 supplement will be the week ending July 25, 2020. During the FPUC program period, claimants who are eligible to receive regular unemployment weekly payments will receive the additional $600 FPUC payment.
Missouri’s regular unemployment insurance program continues to be in effect. Under Missouri unemployment law, most people who are currently employed and quit are not eligible for unemployment benefits. If an employer offers sick leave and/or other leave options to address COVID-19 in lieu of layoffs, then a person who quits on his/her own volition would not qualify for unemployment benefits. At this point, no federal legislation changes this part of Missouri’s eligibility requirements for unemployment.
The governor also announced that he has directed DOLIR to implement an emergency rule that will help ensure first-responders who contract COVID-19 are covered through workers’ compensation. This emergency rule will create a presumption that first responders who contract COVID-19 did so in the line of duty and allow them to make a claim under the Missouri Workers’ Compensation law to cover the expenses incurred.
Unemployed workers are encouraged to file their unemployment claims online at uinteract.labor.mo.gov as soon as they are separated from their employer. For convenience, the UInteract website is available 24/7 and mobile-friendly. Over 90 percent of initial claims are now filed online.
As mentioned earlier, the governor has announced that all Missouri public and charter school buildings will remain closed through the remainder of the academic year.
On March 19, 2020, the Department of Higher Education & Workforce Development (DHEWD) provided guidance related to grade point average for postsecondary students utilizing the A+ Program. The March 19 guidance allows students to renew the award for the 2020-2021 academic year if they meet satisfactory academic progress (SAP) as defined by the school, prior to the end of the spring 2020 term, even if the school’s definition requires less than a 2.5 cumulative grade point average (CGPA). To clarify, this guidance only applies to students who were eligible for an award, including a zero award, in at least one term in the 2019-2020 academic year.
Additional updates and changes to DESE and/or public school operations can be found on DESE’s website. Updates from the Department of Higher Education and Workforce Development can be found on the department’s website as well.
With the ever-changing situation regarding the coronavirus, it’s important to stay informed. For up-to-date information about the spread of the coronavirus in Missouri, please visit DHSS’ website at health.mo.gov. The department also has a 24-hour hotline to address your questions and concerns at 877-435-8411. For additional information about the coronavirus, please visit the CDC’s website at cdc.gov.