Missourians' efforts to combat the COVID-19 pandemic continue to pay dividends, Gov. Mike Parson said during his weekly update Thursday.
"When COVID-19 hit Missouri, there was no road map on how to fight it," Parson said. "But, thanks to a balanced approach and the efforts of millions of Missourians, we have made incredible progress in a short amount of time."
Missouri continues to have the second-lowest daily average of new cases in the nation. The state's seven-day positivity rate is 4.5 positive results per 100,000 population.
Hospitalizations statewide have fallen below 900.
Vaccinations continue to climb, and declining cases mean Missouri's health care system is receiving some relief, he said.
Declining virus activity and increasing vaccinations encourage state leaders, Parson said.
To date, Missouri providers have administered more than 1.6 million doses of vaccine to patients. About 1.1 million (17.5 percent) of Missourians have received at least their first vaccine dose. That includes about half of all Missourians ages 65 and older.
Vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna require a second dose, or booster.
About 580,000 Missourians have been fully vaccinated.
"These numbers will only continue to increase with the activation of Phase 1B, Tier 3 on Monday," Parson said.
The next tier includes people working in education (including teachers, faculty and staff at public and private schools), child care, communications, water systems, energy systems, food and agriculture, government information, and transportation.
Previous tiers qualify anyone 65 or older, health care workers, first responders, nursing facilities and anyone with an underlying health condition that puts them at risk of severe symptoms from COVID-19.
Missouri is also outpacing many other states economically, Parson continued.
"Consumer spending has returned to pre-COVID-19 levels," he said. "And the Missouri unemployment rate, as of January, was 4.3 percent."
He added 70 percent of jobs lost in Missouri during the pandemic have been recovered.
"We are 10th overall in economic recovery," Parson said. "Missouri is moving forward."
Additionally, Parson said, the state has partnered with Jackson County and numerous Kansas City area leaders and organizations (including the Kansas City Chiefs) to host a "mega-vaccination" event in the parking lot of Arrowhead Stadium.
The two-day event is intended to vaccinate 6,000-7,000 eligible Jackson County residents.
The state will have two Missouri National Guard teams on the ground and expects to administer 3,000 Johnson & Johnson vaccines each day. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is a single-dose shot.
If Missouri receives additional shipments of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, the number of people receiving the vaccine could increase, Parson said.
Eligible people to receive the vaccine will be chosen from a list of people who have already signed up with the Jackson County Health Department. (About 100,000 people in the county have signed up for the vaccine.)
The vaccinations are by appointment only.
"We are working as quickly as supply will allow to meet the higher vaccine demand for vaccine in our cities," Parson said. "While still keeping vaccine distribution equitable across the state."
By April 1, the state will have doubled its National Guard mass vaccination teams in the region containing Kansas City and tripled the teams in the region containing St. Louis.
State and St. Louis-area health leaders are planning to conduct a "mega-vaccination" event like the one in Kansas City, but details have not been finalized.
Department of Health and Senior Services Director Dr. Randall Williams said the state anticipates vaccines to continue to roll out faster. He said the volume of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine arriving in Missouri is likely to begin increasing the first week of April.