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story.lead_photo.caption Gov. Mike Parson's administration has said that he expects all state employees to return to pre-Covid-19 work settings by May 17, including those in the Truman State Office, Broadway and Jefferson buildings in downtown Jefferson City. There are a number of state offices scattered around the city and all employees who worked from the office prior to the pandemic are expected to return. The Jefferson and Truman buildings each have cafeterias and common areas for employees to be able to sit down for lunch so with the number of people who have had the virus and those who have been vaccinated, being able to spread out over the lunch hour should be possible. Photo by Julie Smith / News Tribune.

As they return to their workplaces in the next two weeks, Missouri's state employees can also expect a return to some pre-pandemic practices.

Gov. Mike Parson instructed all state workers to resume in-person work by May 17 in an effort to make government buildings more accessible to the public in a return to some normalcy.

"With COVID-19 vaccines now readily available across the state and virus activity at its lowest levels since early days of the pandemic, we are confident that it is safe to return to pre-COVID-19 work settings and schedules," Parson said in a news release issued Wednesday morning.

COVID-19 screening and testing protocols will remain in place, and the state is encouraging all employees to consider getting vaccinated. While there will be no statewide mandates, Parson also said state team members are encouraged to practice COVID-19 preventative measures.

"As public servants in state government, it is important that we maintain a front-facing presence for those we serve, and it's time we take this step towards normalcy for ourselves and the people of Missouri," Parson added.

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The decision, announced to Parson's cabinet Monday and the general public Wednesday morning, is something the governor has been pushing toward for nearly two months, said Kelli Jones, his communications director.

As employees return, they'll find office space looking as it did before COVID-19 struck, with masks, social distance and careful personal hygiene "encouraged" but not required by the state, Jones said.

Some state employees expressed concern on social media about finding child care solutions before their return. The state isn't planning to directly accommodate needs that may come up from those situations.

"No special exceptions will be made," Jones said, explaining Parson "never gave approval for permanent remote or hybrid work, and he has always intended for state workers to return to in-person work."

Jones said Parson will examine the efficiency and productivity of the state's agencies before making any decisions about the future of remote or hybrid work for state employees.

"Department leaders are welcome to submit proposals for improving best practices," she said.

Parson's directive comes as the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services announced that more than 4 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered and about 1.8 million Missourians are fully vaccinated.

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