Rebuild and Recover: An Action Plan to Address COVID-19 in Missouri

Nicole Galloway wearing a mask and talking with others wearing masks.

Missouri needs a reset on COVID-19. Governor Parson’s strategy isn’t working. Cases continue to be significantly higher than they were this spring.  School districts across the state are being forced to delay their reopenings. The lingering effects of the pandemic threaten to hobble a full economic recovery — and new restrictions to fight the virus mean the economic impacts of this pandemic will be both painful and long-term. 

Missouri needs a new strategy to address the virus — and fast. 

In the past week, Dr. Deborah Birx, the Coordinator of the White House Coronavirus Task Force stood beside Governor Parson and said that the virus continues to spread at alarming rates in urban, rural and suburban parts of the state. Springfield Mayor Ken McClure told the Governor in a letter that the state’s rural, urban, and suburban communities are all linked — and that only a statewide mask order could stop the virus. 

But instead of listening to local and federal officials calling for the state to do more to fight the virus, the Governor has failed to take action. 

In the absence of new ideas or concrete solutions from the Parson administration, Auditor Galloway is putting forward an action plan filled with concrete steps to ensure that the state can recover and rebuild from this virus. Unlike Governor Parson, Auditor Galloway would act with urgency to address this pandemic and put the state on the path to economic recovery. 

COVID-19 has taken a major toll on our rural and urban communities, revealing countless economic, racial and public health disparities. Missourians deserve a governor with an inclusive vision for recovery and a comprehensive plan that prioritizes the people and places hardest hit by the pandemic.

This action plan is aimed at tackling COVID-19 in Missouri in order to prevent new restrictions and avoid shuttering new businesses. This plan has been developed based on months of conversations and discussions with local leaders, public health experts, medical professionals, business and labor leaders. Auditor Galloway has also visited organizations across the state like Care STL Health in St. Louis who are on the frontlines of fighting this pandemic and providing testing and care to their communities.

 

Protecting Public Health

  • MASK MANDATE: Missouri should follow the advice of Dr. Deborah Birx and Springfield Mayor Ken McClure by implementing a statewide mask rule. 
  • TESTING: In recognition that the virus does not adhere to state lines, Missouri should engage surrounding states to cooperate on the purchase of rapid testing supplies and equipment. Maryland, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Ohio, and Virginia entered into an interstate compact to purchase 3 million rapid antigen tests. Missouri should engage the Governors of bordering states and other regional partners to combine purchasing power to acquire more testing capacity.
  • REOPENING SCHOOLS: A data-driven approach for safely reopening schools that recognizes the risk that community transmission poses to keeping fully in-person school on-track. Missouri should have clear guidelines for when local decision makers can offer fully in-person school, with clear requirements for how to ensure safety of students and staff.
    • The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) should issue guidance to districts that requires three types of learning models: fully in-person, hybrid, fully virtual. The hybrid model would split building attendance into two groups, with each group attending in-person two days per week and virtual for two-to-three days per week depending on the district.
    • Using Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) data, the 14-day case rate per 10,000 people in the district’s county will determine the threshold for when each type of learning scenario is recommended. Districts will retain the flexibility to, for instance, offer only virtual learning even if the case rate is below 50. Similarly, parents could select a virtual option even if the district is offering fully in-person or hybrid instruction. But, a district should not offer fully in-person learning unless the county case rate is below 10 per 10,000.
  • SUPPORT FOR COMMUNITY HEALTH CENTERS: Local community health centers have regularly served on the front lines of Missouri’s public health, particularly for uninsured and under-insured communities. But COVID-19 has exponentially increased their workload and forced many health centers in rural and urban communities to be stretched to their capacity. Community health centers in counties hardest hit by COVID-19 must have the adequate resources to combat the pandemic and provide service to those who need it the most.
  • CONVENE AN EMERGENCY MEDICAL TASK FORCE:  Bring together Missouri Health Care Experts in an Emergency Medical Task Force that would include the Chief of Medicine for a number of the state’s largest hospitals, designees chosen by the Adjutant General, the Director of DPS, the Director of DHSS, public health experts, epidemiologists from Missouri’s leading universities, local health directors, and experts in emergency response.  
    • The task force should brief the public daily on the condition of COVID-19 in Missouri and steps being taken to stop the virus. 
    • The task force should provide recommendations of executive actions to the Governor that can and will protect public health. In the same way that Dr. Deborah Birx and the White House Coronavirus Task Force brief media and the public on steps needed to contain the virus, the Parson administration should be putting public health experts — not just the Governor's political appointees — front and center in responding to this crisis. 
    • The Task Force would also be a hub for collecting COVID-19 data — ensuring that the state would not have to rely on hospitalization data from the CDC. The state should never lose control of its COVID-19 hospitalization data.

 

Ensuring Missouri’s Communities And Local Governments Can Rebuild

  • ASSIGN A STATE-LEVEL RESPONSE TEAM TO HELP COUNTIES SPEND THEIR CARES ACT MONEY — WITH A FOCUS ON CONTACT TRACING AND PPE: Assign a state-level response team to assist counties in deploying  CARES Act money. Utilizing these resources is being stalled, and Jefferson City needs to do more to ensure communities can use this aid on critical needs like contact tracing and PPE. What the Governor and administration are doing right now simply isn’t enough. 
  • EMERGENCY RELIEF FUNDING FOR COUNTY GOVERNMENTS: Even before the pandemic hit, the state owed county governments more than $35 million in reimbursements for costs associated with housing and transporting state prisoners in county jails. The state should reimburse county governments for the cost of transporting and holding state prisoners. 

 

Rebuilding Missouri's Economy

  • STAND UP FOR MISSOURI: While other governors are calling on Congress to take immediate action to provide aid to state governments in order to fund economic recovery and school reopenings, Governor Parson has been largely silent. The Governor should be explicit with both the public and members of Congress about aid needed from Congress in order to ensure that schools can reopen and small businesses are able to survive through this economic crisis. 
  • CONVENE AN ECONOMIC RELIEF COUNCIL: Missouri is only beginning to feel the economic consequences of the pandemic. An economic relief council composed of labor members, business leaders, and small business owners is needed to advise the Governor’s administration on economic stabilization in the short term and economic recovery in the long term. 
  • RELIEF FOR WORKERS: Employer-provided paid sick leave is the appropriate first resort for workers who are ordered to isolate or become ill. In cases where that is not provided, the state of Missouri should provide some level of wage replacement. Families should not have to worry about putting food on the table because a wage earning family member is ill or cannot work.
    • If a worker who does not receive paid sick leave through their employer, but follows guidance from medical or public health officials to isolate or quarantine as a result of exposure to COVID-19, or needs to take time off from work to keep themselves or a loved one safe, should be eligible for unemployment benefits.
  • SUSTAINING BLACK SMALL BUSINESSES: Missouri cannot ignore the alarming number of Black-owned small businesses that will not survive COVID-19 due to community wealth gaps and limited access to markets. As part of her Opportunity Agenda, Auditor Galloway will reorganize the Department of Economic Development to include a department of Minority Business that will be charged with ensuring vulnerable small businesses in Black and Brown communities are able to withstand future economic uncertainties.
 

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