Missouri's statewide public health order that had been set to expire after May 31 has been extended to June 15, Gov. Mike Parson said Thursday — though he said that's not because of any setbacks in the COVID-19 pandemic.
Instead, Parson said the extension is to align the order with the end dates for executive orders and the state of emergency Missouri remains under.
The extension will also give some harder-hit communities "more time to prepare and align with us at the state level as we continue working toward phase two," the governor said.
He said the state is in a good place regarding its four pillars of recovery — testing capacity, availability of personal protective equipment, hospitals' capacity, and data collection and tracking.
"We are extending phase one not because Missouri has taken a step back but because we want to make sure we are fully prepared for phase two. Nothing about phase one has changed. As long as social distancing and other necessary health and safety measures are implemented, businesses can still be open," Parson said.
The state began easing restrictions on businesses and activities May 4, though the statewide public health order that's been in place since then — guiding the first phase of the loosening of restrictions — requires businesses and individuals to practice social distancing, limits the number of people allowed inside retail establishments, requires restaurants to keep diners spread apart and limit the number of people at a table, and prohibits visitors from entering long-term care facilities, retirement homes or assisted living homes — unless to provide critical assistance or in end-of-life circumstances.
Missouri has been under a state of emergency since March 13. The declaration allows a governor to temporarily waive or suspend laws and regulations that could delay the state's responses to a crisis, including the responses by the state health department.
Other executive orders of Parson's set to expire June 15 include allowing for restaurants to sell unprepared food, activation of the Missouri National Guard and remote notary public services.
"It is going to be more open," Parson said of phase two of easing restrictions — adding the state, at some point, will have to move away from orders, and people will have to take it upon themselves to practice social distancing.
"In the very near future, I hope this state is open back up for business," but "we're just going to have to be cautious about how we conduct ourselves," he added.
In the meantime, Parson said events such as graduations, weddings, county fairs, and summer schools and camps can still be held.
There are no limitations on social gatherings, so long as people take precautions and stay 6 feet apart from one another, he said.
Parson also said Thursday that CVS Health announced it will open 22 COVID-19 testing sites at select CVS Pharmacy drive-thru locations in Missouri.
His office did not provide any details on specific locations in a news release, and the company's website did not yet list Missouri among the states where it's opened or opening test sites.
While there are CVS pharmacies inside some Jefferson City retailers, CVS said testing will not be available at such locations.
CVS Health reported it has established up to 1,000 locations nationwide for testing, with a goal of processing 1.5 million COVID-19 tests per month — approximately 50 tests per site per day.
People who get tested at the sites will perform the test themselves while remaining in their vehicles, under the observation of a CVS Pharmacy team member who will check to make sure the self-swab test is administered properly, according to Parson's office.
The tests will be sent to a third-party lab for processing, with results in approximately three days.
Dr. Randall Williams, director of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, said with CVS' testing, the state's capacity to test for COVID-19 will be approximately 10,000 tests per day.
The tests are available only to people who meet Centers for Disease Control and Prevention criteria, as well as state and age guidelines. More information from CVS is available at cvshealth.com/covid-19/testing-information-locations.