After it took 23 days for Missouri to record its first 1,000 cases of COVID-19, the state is poised to double that number in four days this week.
On Thursday, the state learned that a staggering new record 104,000 people applied for unemployment compensation in the week that ended last Friday.
School districts are starting to extend the period until they resume classes and one district, in Macon, announced it would not try to reopen schools at all.
Nationally, the United States passed a grim milestone in the pandemic when, for the first time, more than 1,000 people died in a single day.
The University of Missouri canceled on-campus spring commencement exercises.
Gov. Mike Parson, in his daily briefing, said that on Friday he would announce whether he will impose new restrictions as he renews his March 21 emergency order banning gatherings of 10 or more people and ordering restaurants to be closed to dine-in service.
He continues to question the need for a statewide stay-at-home order, he said.
"When you are the governor of the state of Missouri and you try to do a statewide order, our state is so diverse, for every segment of the state is different, and it is very difficult sometimes to just put a blanket order in place," Parson said.
The first case of COVID-19 was confirmed March 7 in St. Louis County. Missouri topped 1,000 cases on Monday.
The state count of confirmed cases of coronavirus infection rose by 253 on Thursday, the third consecutive day of with 250 or more new cases. The daily update by the Department of Health and Senior Services showed a total of 1,834 cases.
There have been 19 deaths in the state.
More bad economic news came in the form of mass layoffs. There were five new notices posted Thursday, involving 557 workers. The largest was for AutoAlert LLC in Kansas City, which is laying off 200 workers.
The contagion has now spread to 73 of the state's 117 reporting local health jurisdictions.
The largest outbreaks of COVID-19 continue to be in the state's urban areas. St. Louis County as of Thursday had more than 700 cases, with another 216 in the city of St. Louis. On the western side of the state, Kansas City reported 139 infections and Jackson County outside Kansas City had 109 more.
Boone County, with 69 cases on Thursday, has the most infections outside the largest metropolitan areas, followed by Greene County with 54, Jefferson County with 47 and Johnson County with 26.
In Central Missouri, the Cooper County Public Health Center on Monday announced there was a second confirmed case of COVID-19.
The Cooper County case was not travel-related, according to a news release. An investigation is underway by the health center and Department of Health and Senior Services to identify any person who may have come in close contact with the patient.
Boone County and 37 other jurisdictions in the state are under stay-at-home orders, an increase of seven since Monday. The orders cover more than 75 percent of the state's population.
Parson’s likely Democratic opponent in the November election, State Auditor Nicole Galloway, on Tuesday echoed recommendations by the Missouri State Medical Association, the Missouri Nurses Association and a coalition of public health agencies for Parson to issue a statewide order.
The businesses essential to local economies differ in various parts of the state, Parson said Thursday, and that complicates his decision.
"We are going to figure out a solution to that and figure out more of that tomorrow," he said.
Most of the state’s largest communities have been under stay-at-home orders since last week. But smaller counties with few or no COVID-19 cases are now telling residents to leave home only for essential reasons, such as to buy groceries or medicine.
The order in St. Francois County, in southeastern Missouri, takes effect on Friday, The Kansas City Star reported. The county with a population of about 66,000 has 10 cases as of Wednesday morning.
"In our case, in absence of a statewide action, we had to take action for our own community," said Amber Elliott, director of the St. Francois Health Center, which issued the order in coordination with the county commission.
The latest report of a criminal charge related to COVID-19 came from Cuba, Missouri, where John Swaller, 33, was charged Tuesday with making a terrorist threat and was being held on $25,000 bail in the Crawford County jail.
Swaller is accused of intentionally coughing toward customers at a Dollar Tree store, breathing on a cooler, and writing COVID on the inside of the cooler, police said. A store employee alerted authorities. The store was closed and sanitized.
Swaller's father told The St. Louis Post-Dispatch that his son doesn't have COVID-19.
St. Louis County officials on Thursday sent warning letters to about 50 nail salons, dine-in restaurants, bars and other businesses that have continued to operate despite being deemed non-essential. County Executive Dr. Sam Page said non-compliant businesses might not have access to grants from a $2 trillion relief package passed by Congress last week.
Nationally, there were 238,820 confirmed infections in the United States at 5 p.m. Thursday, with 5,758 deaths attributed to COVID-19. The numbers reported in the U.S. grew by more than 25,000 in 24 hours, with the number of deaths up 1,100 in the same period.
Worldwide, the tracking data on cases confirmed by testing topped 1 million Thursday afternoon, increasing by 67,0000 in about 20 hours. Deaths worldwide that are blamed on the coronavirus now total 52,771.
The Springfield News-Leader, the Kirksville Daily Express, the Boonville Daily News and the Associated Press contributed to this report.
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