Missouri saw its biggest increase in COVID-19 cases since the first week of April on Saturday, led by a surge of new cases in St. Louis and the inclusion of cases found at a northwest Missouri meatpacking plant.
The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services reported that it found an additional 100 cases among asymptomatic employees of the Triumph Foods pork processing pant in St. Joseph.
State and most local stay-at-home orders expire at midnight Sunday, although in Kansas City and Jackson County they will remain in place until May 15 and in St. Louis County indefinitely.
The reopening will include the first first post-shutdown meeting by the Columbia City Council, which will hear some grim news about the city budget – more than $4 million has to be cut from general fund payroll and it has to happen by Sept. 30.
As businesses reopen, they will be using money from Paycheck Protection Loans, which federal data shown has gone to 8.7 percent of Missouri small businesses and brought $7.5 billion to the state, the Springfield News-Leader reported.
There were 319 new cases reported Saturday and the state surpassed 8,000 cases, with a total of 8,154 COVID-19 cases since the first infection was reported March 7.
Of those cases, 194 were in the St. Louis metro area, including 83 in the city of St. Louis, the largest increase there since April 18. Of the 359 new infections found at Triumph Foods out of about 1,600 tests completed, 44 were included in the count for Buchanan County.
In total, there are 405 employees at the plant known to have tested positive, including 46 identified earlier after showing symptoms.
For the first time Friday, the state began providing data about infected residents in nursing homes and assisted care facilities. The reports don’t detail how many infections have been found, just that there are two or more cases in a facility and the county where it is located.
All told, the virus has been confirmed at 79 facilities, including 46 in St. Louis County, 12 in St. Louis city and nine in St. Charles County. Two facilities are affected in both Franklin and Jackson counties. Adair, Cass, Greene, Jefferson, Moniteau, Pemiscot, Platte and Scott counties each have one affected facility.
Local health officials have confirmed that more than three dozen nursing home residents have died of COVID-19 in Missouri, including 16 at Frontier Health and Rehabilitation in St. Charles, 10 at Grandview Health Care in Washington, five at Morningside East assisted living center in Springfield and five at Parc Provence, a long-term care facility in St. Louis County.
Nationally, more than 11,000 nursing home deaths have been linked to COVID-19.
In the county with the state’s highest infection rate, Saline in central Missouri, local health officials reported they now have 199 positive cases. On a per capita basis, the infection rate in Saline County is more than double that of St. Louis.
There were 14 new deaths reported Saturday, bringing the state total to 351 since the first death was reported March 18 in Boone County.
There have been coronavirus infections found in 99 of the state’s 117 local health department jurisdictions and deaths in 33 counties.
The number of inpatient COVID-19 cases grew to 896 on Saturday, the highest number since the latest revision of reporting by the Missouri Hospital Association. Infectious disease specialist consider new hospitalizations the clearest picture of the spread of the coronavirus, since it generally takes about 10 days after someone is infected to be sick enough for hospital care.
The report prepared for the Columbia City Council’s work session puts numbers on the economic downturn since the COVID-19 pandemic began slowing and later shuttering businesses.
Sales tax revenue will likely be down 10 percent for the year, with license and permit fee revenue off 20 percent, the report states.
Sales tax revenue to the general fund during the city fiscal year was already expected to be $1.1 million below the previous year. The $485 million budget approved by the council in September used $3.4 million of reserves to make the $88.2 million general fund portion balance.
The issues the council will grapple with Monday night will be repeated in city halls and county commissions across the state in coming weeks. The first delivery of local sales tax revenue that covers any part of the pandemic slowdown will arrive this week and officials are bracing for what Boone County Treasurer Tom Darrough called “staggeringly depleted” payments.
The businesses that pay those taxes could find it difficult to attract customers at first and some, like theaters and larger venues, will remain closed in many locations. The Paycheck Protection Program loans will help cover the difference in revenue.
And if the customers don’t come in a rush, there are other things to do, Jeff Schrag, owner and founder of Springfield-based Mother's Brewing Company, told the News-Leader.
"Every business has undone projects and every business has some opportunity to get creative," Schrag said, "so it's a really positive thing, putting good people back to work."
There will be restrictions in many places on the number of people who can be inside a business as well as regulation of which ones can open. In Columbia and Boone County, the occupancy can be no more than the rating provided by fire marshals for buildings larger than 10,000 square feet and 25 percent in smaller locations.
Gov. Mike Parson urged those returning to stores and businesses to continue to be cautious, and he urged them to buy local.
“Now more than ever our Missouri businesses need our support," Parson said Friday in his daily briefing.
In other COVID-19 news from around the state, a federal judge has refused to stop St. Louis officials from clearing a homeless encampment at a downtown park.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that U.S. District Judge Sarah E. Pitlyk on Saturday denied a request for a temporary restraining order filed by the legal advocacy group ArchCity Defenders. Pitlyk wrote in her decision that the city was not criminalizing homelessness or sleeping in public.
And in Cairo in Randolph County, school officials are planning a June 28 graduation ceremony for 26 seniors from its Class of 2020 as part of the district's Senior Celebration Weekend, Greg Taylor, principal, told the Moberly Monitor-Index.
The case count continued to rise at a steady pace in the nation and worldwide on Saturday.
The U.S. surpassed 1.13 million total confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Saturday afternoon, an increase of 27,520 in 24 hours. The contagion is blamed for 66,051 deaths in the U.S., up 1,451 from the day before..
Worldwide, the virus is known to have infected more than 3.4 million people and is blamed for almost 244,000 deaths.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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