Flying in the face of the recommendations of health officials, scientists and even the Trump administration, Governor Mike Parson announced today in a press conference and official statement that all businesses in Missouri will be allowed to reopen with no restrictions on crowd size come May 4.
According to a statement, there will be "no limitations on social gatherings as long as necessary precautions are taken and six feet of distance can be maintained between individuals and/or families." Additionally, "all businesses can be open provided that the social distancing guidelines set forth in the new health order are followed."
Some of those guidelines will include limited occupancy in retail stores. Outside of that, though, Missouri will be open for business, Parson says.
“With favorable data and approval from state health officials, we are ready to take another step forward in the recovery of Missouri,” Governor Parson said in the address. “Today, I am announcing phase one of our ‘Show Me Strong Recovery’ Plan, which will begin Monday, May 4 and extend through Sunday, May 31.”
It should be noted, though, that both St. Louis and St. Louis county — as well as Kansas City and Jackson County — will remain under stay-at-home orders through at least May 15. Governor Parson made clear in his address that cities and counties are free to enact more stringent guidelines than the state's, but not less, meaning that his plan will not override the orders of local officials.
The plan, dubbed "Show Me Strong Recovery," has four main pillars: expanding testing, expanding PPE reserves, monitoring and expanding healthcare system capacity if necessary and using public health data to better predict potential outbreaks.
It further outlines several things that businesses and individuals alike can do in order to stay safe in the days and weeks ahead, though it is notable that each is only "encouraged" and none are officially mandated (making them, essentially, unenforceable).
Individuals, according to the plan, are encouraged to:
-Stay home if sick
-Wash hands often with soap and water or use hand sanitizer
-Avoid touching your face
-Sneeze or cough into a tissue or the inside of elbow
-Disinfect frequently used items and surfaces
-Avoid socializing in groups that do not readily allow for appropriate social distancing
-Minimize travel to the extent possible
Businesses, meanwhile, are encouraged to:
-Implement basic infection prevention measures informed by industry best practices
-Modify physical workspaces to maximize social distancing
-Minimize business travel
-Develop an infectious disease preparedness and response plan
-Do not allow symptomatic people to physically return to work until cleared by a medical provider
-Encourage telework whenever possible and feasible with business operations
-Return to work in phases and/or split shifts
-Limit access to common areas where personnel are likely to congregate and interact
-Ensure that sick leave policies are flexible and consistent with public health guidance
“All of Missouri’s businesses, employers, and employees are vital to our state’s economy and well-being,” Governor Parson said in the address. “Opening these businesses is going to look very different for awhile, but I’m confident Missourians will abide by the guidelines as we move forward.”
Why, exactly, Governor Parson has such great confidence in that is something of a mystery, considering that hundreds of protesters came knocking on his own door just last week, many of them refusing to wear masks or practice social distancing, and many even referring to the virus as a "hoax."
The reopening plan comes just days after Governor Parson signed an executive order extending the state of emergency in Missouri, which has been in place since March 13, through June 15, sending something of a confusing mixed message about the true severity of the situation.
And in his address, Governor Parson even made clear that COVID-19 remains a threat.
“As we begin to reopen, we will be prepared, but the virus is still here," he warned. "Protect yourself and the people you love."
So: This is an emergency, Governor Parson says, and the virus is still out there, as he admits — but let's just throw caution to the wind and open this state up, alright?
What's the worst that could happen?