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Missouri National Guard to play major role in ramping up COVID-19 testing

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (KMIZ)

The Missouri National Guard will play a key role in ramping up statewide COVID-19 testing, the governor said Wednesday while promising more details on the Guard's role later this week.

Gov. Mike Parson made testing the focus of his regular COVID-19 briefing in the Missouri Capitol on Wednesday. Parson reiterated the state's goal of 7,500 COVID-19 tests per day, a number he revealed this week in talking about increased testing's role in getting Missouri's economy back in shape.

You can watch a replay of the news conference in the player below.

Parson said state officials have had several meetings this week to discuss how to increase COVID-19 testing and promised to reveal more details during his briefing Thursday.

"Testing and economic recovery will go hand-in-hand," Parson said. "You cannot have one without the other. Which is why we are working to rapidly increase our daily testing numbers."

Nursing homes will be a major focus of the testing, Parson said.

Dr. Randall Williams, head of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, said 9,254 people are living in long-term care facilities where a resident or staff member has tested positive for COVID-19 in the past 14 days. The state is beginning comprehensive testing in those facilities this week as part of its "boxed in" strategy to identify and isolate localized outbreaks, Williams said.

Guard Adjutant General Levon Cumpton appeared with Parson and, like Parson, promised more details on his agency's role on Thursday.

Parson also highlighted a new online dashboard for state COVID-19 case and testing numbers that was unveiled Wednesday. Parson said the site includes more data than the state's previous reporting site.

The data are a "great representation of trends we're seeing" that are behind decisions such as the lifting of a statewide stay-at-home order May 3, Parson said.

"We want Missourians to have access to the data we’re using to make decisions as we work through this process," Parson said.

The governor said he realized early on in the COVID-19 pandemic that the state needed reliable data to make decisions, calling data from think tanks and other sources inaccurate.

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services said on Wednesday that statewide COVID-19 cases increased to 11,232 after the state added more than 150 new cases.

Lighting the governor's mansion

Parson said he plans to give the commencement speech at his granddaughter's high school graduation on Thursday in Sparta.

He said he and First Lady Teresa Parson will light the governor's mansion up for 20 minutes and 20 seconds Wednesday night to celebrate the class of 2020, which had its senior year cut short by school closings.

"The year 2020 will not be remembered because of COVID-19 virus," Parson said, speaking to seniors during his briefing. "The year 2020 will be remembered as a launching pad for the next generation of successful men and women like yourselves that will make this state and nation better off than ever before."

Budget cuts coming

Parson said in answer to a reporter's question that his administration conferred with the leaders of Missouri's 500-plus public school districts about the money he will withhold from the state budget in the coming week to 10 days.

He said another $500 million to $700 million in state budget cuts will be required when the next fiscal year begins July 1.

Missouri / News / Top Stories / Video

Matt Ragsdale

Matt Ragsdale is a broadcast and digital producer at ABC 17 News.

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