Missouri will be under a stay-at-home order from 12:01 a.m. Monday until 11:59 p.m. April 24 to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson announced Friday
There were 2,113 reported COVID-19 cases in Missouri, as of Friday afternoon, as well as at least 20 deaths from the disease — including the first death in Cole County, reported Friday, that was not yet counted among the state Department of Health and Senior Services' 19 tallied deaths.
"Now, more than ever, we must all make sacrifices. This is not about any one individual person. This is about our families, our friends, our neighbors. This is about the entire state of Missouri," Parson said.
Some who are already under stay-at-home orders issued by local counties may find familiar provisions in Parson's order, but plenty of other municipalities had not yet issued such an order.
People everywhere in the state should also notice crowd limitations at stores that have not already taken such action.
The statewide stay-at-home order will allow for people to leave their residences for work; to get food, medication, health care and other necessities; to access other essential services such as gas stations and banks; and to do outdoor activity — but people will at all times have to practice social distancing.
That means avoiding social gatherings of 10 or more people and keeping at least 6 feet away from people who are not family or whose duties of essential work require closer contact.
Those measures apply to customers standing in a line, as well as people using shared indoor or outdoor spaces outside their residence.
People will be allowed to travel to and from a place of worship, but social distancing limitations must be adhered to there as well.
The existing social distancing limitations placed on locations and establishments including residential or care facilities for seniors and restaurants will remain in place.
Businesses not deemed essential according to guidance from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security must adhere to social distancing limitations but may request a waiver from the limit on social gatherings via a form from the Missouri Department of Economic Development.
Any offices and workplaces that remain open must have individuals practice good hygiene and work from home whenever feasible.
Essential retail businesses will have to limit the number of people inside at a time, either to 25 percent or less of the locally set fire or building code occupancy limit for a store of less than 10,000 square feet, or to 10 percent or less of the occupancy limit for a store that's 10,000 square feet or more.
Public and charter schools will remain closed, and "further guidance related to the conclusion of the 2019-20 academic school year will be forthcoming from the governor and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education."
Child care providers and schools may continue to provide child care for working families.
All state office buildings will remain closed to the public, though that does not apply to the Missouri State Capitol during meetings and proceedings of the General Assembly.
The "lawful possession, transfer, sale, transportation, storage, display or use of firearms or ammunition" shall also not be prohibited or restricted by the stay-at-home order.
"My order goes further than any directive in the state," Parson said, but he added that any city or county authorities who want to add further restrictions may do so.
"You know the people and the needs of your communities the best," he said.
Parson has faced criticism for weeks for a perceived delay in issuing a statewide stay-at-home order, after some Missouri municipalities and most other U.S. states have already done so in the face of the pandemic.
"There is at least one positive case in 76 of the 114 counties in Missouri," Parson said Friday, with over half of the cases in the St. Louis area.
Approximately 8.5 percent of the 24,727 people tested in Missouri have had positive results.
Of those who have tested positive, approximately 22 percent have required hospitalization leaving the remaining 78 percent to recover at home, if they have not already recovered.
Parson said the death rate in the state from the disease has been below 1 percent.
Missouri had its first reported case announced March 7. Parson declared a state of emergency March 13, and on March 21 he directed DHSS to require social distancing measures statewide.
Parson on requested a federal major disaster declaration for the state March 25, with the scope of the pandemic beyond the state's and local governments' ability to give an effective response on their own.
Parson activated the Missouri National Guard on March 27 to aid in the state's response.
He said Friday that the stay-at-home order "is just not about encouraging people to stay home."
"I have done that every day in these daily briefings for two weeks, to encourage people to stay home," he said. "It is having the power of governor to pick winners and losers, and whether I feel it is appropriate for me to use the power by determining who is essential and who is not" that's weighed on him.
"This power is something I think should be rare for government to ever take advantage of, and for one person to make the decision for 6 million Missourians without due process, jeopardizing their liberties," he said.
He said other states and cities' earlier orders may not have taken into account unintended consequences of funneling people to a limited number of businesses, thereby creating hot spots for infection.
Parson did not give any specific examples and did not take any submitted questions from reporters during Friday's briefing.
After the governor's announcement, Daniel Mehan — president and CEO of the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry — released a statement in support of the decision: "This decision was made out of necessity and we applaud the governor for allowing essential business operations, and those in their supply chains, to continue to operate in an as-close-to-normal manner as is practical. Gov. Parson's solution strikes a balance between the need to act to combat this public health crisis while also establishing safe, achievable practices to ensure that Missouri stays open for business.
"Gov. Parson wisely chose to implement a statewide solution as Missourians and the state's business community were faced with adhering to an increasingly complex patchwork of local orders. This action provides clarity to all Missourians, will help stop the spread of coronavirus and gives businesses the direction they need to modify and continue operations during this crisis."
This article was updated at 6:35 p.m. April 3, 2020, with additional details.