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story.lead_photo.caption Missouri Department of Economic Development Director Rob Dixon speaks Friday, April 17, 2020, during a COVID-19 press briefing as Gov. Mike Parson looks on.
For more news about the COVID-19 coronavirus, access the News Tribune Health section.

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson's goal is to begin reopening the state's economy May 4. But even if that can happen, Parson asked Friday for patience, because reopening will be gradual.

He cautioned, "Things will not go back to normal just like we flip a light switch on."

Social distancing will remain a priority "for a while" in businesses that do open back up, Parson said.

"Be patient as we go through the next couple weeks," he said. "And once that date comes, on May 4, you're going to have to be patient again."

Parson on Thursday had announced the tentative plan is to begin to reopen Missouri's economy May 4, with his current statewide stay-at-home order in effect through May 3.

With the extension of the order Thursday to May 3, Missouri State Parks announced Friday that also through May 3, the temporary closure of campgrounds, park-run lodging, offices, visitor centers and some state parks will continue, as well as the cancellation of special events and programming.

The closed state parks are Castlewood, Elephant Rocks, Weston Bend, Watkins Woolen Mill State Historic Site and Park, and the off-road vehicle riding area at St. Joe State Park.

In addition to health conditions, the plan to reopen Missouri rests on the state successfully using the next couple weeks to expand and be able to expand its capacity for testing, personal protective equipment and hospitals, as well as to be able to collect all the localized data necessary to be able to predict and respond to potential outbreaks of COVID-19.

As the state continues to receive and distribute personal protective equipment Sandra Karsten, director of the Missouri Department of Public Safety, said Friday the state is seeking to recover more than $8.25 million from one of the manufacturers of KN95 masks that were recalled this week.

The recalled masks did not properly seal against the face of a person wearing them, said Dr. Randall Williams, director of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services.

A proper seal means proper protection from the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19, a respiratory disease.

The state recalled 48,000 of the KN95 masks, which were made at three different factories in China, and purchased by three vendors.

The masks had been received by Mid-Missouri first responders, among other law enforcement and fire services, earlier this month.

Jefferson City and Cole County authorities said Monday none of the recalled masks had been used by members of their departments.

Karsten on Friday described that — while limited in what she could say, because of a potential lawsuit — the state had recovered its money from two of three cases involving the recalled masks.

In the first case, the state was fully refunded $1.1 million for 360,000 ordered KN95 masks, of which 88,360 masks had been received. The masks, unused, were picked up from the state's warehouse Friday.

In the second case, the state ordered 5 million masks at a cost of more than $16.5 million — of which the state paid half up front, more than $8.25 million. The vendor had not delivered any of the masks, canceled the order and agreed to return the full advance payment of more than $8.25 million, "which was accomplished on Wednesday," Karsten said.

In the third case, however, the state ordered more than 3.9 million masks, for more than $16.5 million. The state also paid half of the total price up front, more than $8.25 million, and received almost 101,000 masks.

"The vendor has declined to refund the $8.25 million that was advanced, at this time," Karsten said.

She declined to name any of the vendors.

She added, "We will do everything in our power to recoup the money."

The state this week was scheduled to receive the first, new shipment of 200,000 American-manufactured N95 respirator masks that were to be made available to first responders.

Parson's office also announced Friday that 16 broadband internet development projects will receive $3.05 million through the state's broadband grant program.

Callabyte Technology is to receive $335,806 for a project that will serve Holts Summit and other areas of Callaway County.

The Missouri Department of Economic Development also has created a webpage that lists "broadband discounts, waivers and free resources available to Missourians during the COVID-19 pandemic," according to a news release.

That webpage is at health.mo.gov/living/healthcondiseases/communicable/novel-coronavirus/broadband.php.

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