Gov. Mike Parson visited Plaza Tire on South Kings-highway in Cape Girardeau to discuss the reopening of the state following the expiration of stay-at-home orders. He also visited the Cape Girardeau Police Department and the Cape Girardeau County Sheriff’s Office in Jackson to discuss their efforts as frontline workers and to thank them for their service as part of a National Police Week observance.
“It seems like people are pretty anxious to open up,” he said to Scott and Mark Rhodes, co-owners of Plaza Tire, in the lobby of their store, while surrounded by members of the local media.
When the coronavirus first hit Missouri, it was difficult to make decisions without hard facts, Parson said. Some people wanted the state shut down to prevent the spread; others wanted to keep the economy open. “It was danged if you do and danged if you don’t,” he said.
One of the most positive things to happen was the collection information about what was actually happening in Missouri. “Early on, we were just trying to make decisions off of what was being said on the national level, which we know now was very inaccurate,” he said.
Because Missourians took the virus seriously, and they took it upon themselves to help prevent its spread, the coronavirus did not spread in the state as first expected.
“From day one, we recommended they stay at home if they did not have to be out,” Parson said. “We didn’t have to make a law or regulation [at first].”
One of the indicators that it was safe to reopen the state was that the demand for testing is going down.
“The most exciting thing about the testing side of it is that the demand for testing is going down,” Parson said. Missouri currently has the capability to do 50,000 to 60,000 tests per week. “We’re in good shape here,” he said.
Reopening seems to be going well. “Things look good,” said Parson. “It’s pretty positive. You know, just like today, you see a lot of people out in the communities. People are realizing they’ve got to maintain a little bit of distancing. We’ve still got a virus out there. It’s really doable to open the economy and work with the virus [still around].”
A lot of positive things are happening, Parson said. Summer is coming on and medicines are now available that were not available 60 days ago.
When asked about a potential second wave of corona-virus hitting, forcing businesses to close again, Parson said, “We’ll go day-by-day” and decisions will be made “on a factual basis.”
“If there’s a serious wave, bigger than the first, we’ll have to deal with it,” he said. Parson doesn’t know what actions he would take until facts become available at that time.
One thing going for Missouri is its diversity, he added. The policy for Kansas City and St. Louis is not the same as it is for rural areas like here, he said. “As governor, you have to do a balancing act,” he said.
The state is much more prepared for a second wave than it was for this first outbreak, he added.
As the state opens up, the wearing of cloth masks is recommended but is not required by law.
“We’ve said all along, if you want to wear a mask, wear a mask,” Parson said. “It’s not government’s place to mandate whether you wear a mask or not,” he said. “If you listen to the experts, the infectious disease doctors, they will tell you right now, if you’re not wearing a mask properly, it’s probably not doing you much good, and (2), social distancing is far more important than a mask.
“Really, social distancing is the the most important thing we can do,” Parson continued. That means remaining 6 feet apart from people who don’t share your household.
At the Cape Police Department, the governor spoke with Chief Wes Blair, Cape County Sheriff Ruth Ann Dickerson and several law enforcement officers. He asked about their supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE)—such as face masks and gloves.
It was hard, at first, to get enough PPE to supply all the law enforcement and medical personnel who deal with the public, Parson said. The federal government didn’t have enough to go around, and it was difficult to find supplies from other states or countries. The crunch was eased in Missouri when manufacturers in the state began producing PPE for Missourians. “Next time, we’re not going to be dependent upon other states and foreign manufacturers,” Parson said. “We can’t be dependent upon foreign soil.”
Parson then asked if the officers had seen a rise in mental health issues with people staying at home.
Dickerson said the Sheriff’s Office has seen “an uptick in mental health calls.”
Blair reported that suicides and domestic disturbance calls have increased, but child abuse reports are way down because children are not in school, where reports usually are made. “We’ll see it spike in the future,” Blair said.
“I just want to say thanks for what you’re doing,” Parson told the officers, as this was National Police Week.
Parson briefly discussed the devastating effect the business shutdown has had on the economy in the state. As the state reopens, he echoed the cry to “shop local.”
As for high school seniors who missed graduation, Parson feels for them. He has a granddaugher graduating this spring. “I think they will be able to graduate,” he said. “Every school is a little different.” He said small schools may be able to safely hold commencement on their school football fields.
Traveling on to the Cape County Sheriff’s Office in Jackson, Parson spoke to Dickerson and a small gathering of deputies, repeating some of the comments he had made earlier regarding PPEs, mental health calls and a showing of appreciation for their work.
Later on Facebook, Parson posted, “It was good to see Sheriff Ruth Ann Dickerson again this afternoon and meet with her team at the Cape Girardeau County Sheriff’s Office.
“I am grateful for all the long hours and hard work they put in during the COVID-19 shutdown and now during the start of our recovery.
“I believe the truest form of government can be found at the county level.
“I am humbled every day to be the Governor of the great State of Missouri, but I often think back to my days as Polk County Sheriff and the people I served who knew me directly—whose kids were in the same school as mine, those we sat in church with, and people we saw at the local grocer.
“Our state is strong because of the hard work these women and men do every day to make their communities safer and stronger.”