The number of Missourians infected with the COVID-19 virus continues to rise with each passing day. At the moment I prepare this report, no cases have been reported in the eight counties of the 33rd Senatorial District, but I suspect that will change over time. The total number of positive tests for the coronavirus in Missouri has doubled every two days or so, and a few deaths have occurred around the state.
Regardless of whether anyone near you has tested positive for the coronavirus, all Missourians are under an emergency declaration from the governor. We all are asked to practice “social distancing” by maintaining six feet of separation at all times and not gathering in groups larger than 10 people. Further, we are told to stop visiting nursing homes, long-term care facilities and other places where medically vulnerable people live. Since older people seem to suffer more from the coronavirus, it’s a good idea to limit contact with all seniors, no matter where they live. It’s possible we could carry the virus without knowing it and end up infecting others.
I encourage everyone to visit the Department of Health and Senior Services’ website at www.health.mo.gov for updates on this rapidly evolving situation. Also, the governor holds a briefing each day at 3 p.m. These briefings are livestreamed on Facebook and remain on the site for later viewing. State offices are closed to the public, as are most county and city facilities. Municipal elections have been postponed until June. Both the IRS and the Missouri Department of Revenue have extended deadlines for filing taxes until July 15. If your driver’s license or motor vehicle registration comes due in March or April, you have an additional 60 days to renew.
In Washington, D.C., Congress is expected to approve a stimulus package that will include direct payments to many Americans, increased funding for state unemployment insurance programs, loans to businesses and money for states, communities and major industries caught in the economic fallout from COVID-19. Missouri businesses may also apply for economic injury disaster loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration. You can get more information, or apply online, at www.sba.gov.
Every K-12 school in Missouri will remain closed until at least April 6. In the meantime, the state has received a federal waiver that allows schools to feed students off-campus. Many schools are providing free grab-and-go meals, available for pickup at designated locations. This program is not income-based, so the meals are generally available to any resident who shows up with a child. Check with your local schools for information about food service, as well as available educational materials and activities to keep students engaged while they’re home.
The governor has redirected nearly $18 million from the budgets of various state agencies to purchase personal protection equipment (PPE) for use by health care workers and first responders. Those supplies are now being distributed around the state.
A number of businesses and individuals have contacted my office to offer help in responding to the coronavirus crisis. One local business, The Concrete Works in Wasola, even offered the use of a private aircraft to move supplies. It’s been heart-warming to see the way Missourians have responded to this emergency. Many of us were skeptical when this situation began a few weeks ago, but our hearts turned toward compassion as we’ve watched news reports of the virus spreading around the globe. It’s reassuring to know that Missourians will always come together in a time of need.
I encourage everyone to take this virus seriously. Although most people who become infected will experience only mild symptoms, a certain percentage will become extremely ill. Some will require hospitalization. In other countries, medical facilities have been overrun with patients with extreme respiratory distress. The demand for hospital beds and ventilators quickly outpaces available resources. We can possibly avoid overwhelming medical facilities here in Missouri if we all do our part to slow the spread of COVID-19. Wash your hands often. Stay home if you’re sick. Stay away from the elderly or those with compromised immune systems.
Please everyone, stay safe. Take care of yourselves and your family. Follow the guidance of public health experts and our governor. Check on your neighbors. Perhaps now is a great time to introduce members of my generation to the wonders of online communication. If nothing else, pick up the phone and lift someone’s spirits. This is a difficult time, but we’re all still lucky to be alive and to live in this country.
Also, please pray for the president and our governor as they make difficult decisions and guide us through this unprecedented public health crisis. I’m proud of our leaders and confident they will make the right choices. They can’t do it alone, though. They need our cooperation in order to defeat this threat.
The Missouri Senate has been in recess for the past two weeks, but we’re expected to resume activities at the Capitol on a limited basis soon. Regardless, my staff is on duty and ready to respond to your needs. We’re in contact with the governor’s office and other state officials and we are here to help.
Out of an abundance of caution, the State Capitol will be closed to the public at least until April 6. Although we will not be available for visitors, you may contact us by email or phone. Please don’t hesitate to contact my Capitol office at (573) 751-1882.