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Missouri Gov. Mike Parson is giving businesses and social gatherings the green light to start getting back to normal next week.
In a news conference Monday, Parson said that after this Sunday, restrictions on gatherings of more than 10 people will end and all businesses will be able to re-open.
The order says people still have to stay 6 feet away from non-family members in most situations, but that rule won’t apply to anyone doing a job that requires getting closer, which could apply to barbers, hairstylists and tattoo artists looking to resume services. The order instead encourages them to take “enhanced precautionary measures to mitigate risks.”
Restaurants will also be allowed to offer dine-in service, but won’t be able to have more than 10 people sitting at a single table or allow “communal seating.”
Retailers will still have to follow occupancy limits designed to keep the number of people in stores down. Those with less than 10,000 square feet will have to keep it to 25 percent occupancy and those with larger stores will have to keep it to 10 percent.
And nursing homes, assisted care facilities and long-term elder care facilities, which house people at high risk of getting very sick from the virus, will remain closed to visitors unless they’re providing “critical assistance” or they’re visiting “in end-of-life circumstances.”
But the order appears to open everything else back up, from strip mall shops to stadiums.
It won’t apply in areas where local governments have stricter rules in place, though.
And officials in St. Louis, Kansas City, and St. Louis County, where caseloads have been the highest, have extended their stay-at-home orders to mid-May.
It was not immediately clear what things would look like in Springfield and Greene County Monday. Orders here are set to expire when Parson’s does, but leaders may offer new guidance this week.
Parson, for his part, expressed confidence that his timing is right for most of the time, saying that Missourians’ sacrifices and staying at home had cut down on expected damage.
Time will tell whether that is true. Experts around the state have repeatedly said more testing would help them assess the true scope of any remaining threat.
Earlier this month, Parson said the state would need to do 40,000 to 50,000 tests a week to have enough data to fully reopen.
On Monday, Missouri health department director Randall Williams said state officials had expanded capacity to arrange for around 9,000 tests to be done this week on top of those conducted by private health care providers.
Williams said he was confident that would be enough.
“We have the capacity of tests,” he said. “We’re now checking people who are not symptomatic … (and we’re doing) 4,000 tests in areas that previously didn’t get as much.”
Parson also announced assistance for health departments in hot spots conducting “contact tracing,” referring to the process of determining where infected people may have spread the virus.
Missouri’s economic development department also launched its own marketplace to connect buyers and sellers with scarce and expensive personal protective equipment.
State Medicaid Director Todd Richardson said that as of Monday, it had 9,000 buyers and 223 suppliers.
“I am very proud of our entire state, and I am confident in the directions we are moving,” Parson said. “Our efforts have shown positive results, and as we begin to reopen, I know Missourians will prioritize the safety of their friends and their neighbors.”
Katie Kull covers local government for the News-Leader. Got a story to tell? Give her a call at 417-408-1025 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also support local journalism at News-Leader.com/subscribe.