JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (KMIZ)
Missouri's top health official said Wednesday that more of the state's new COVID-19 cases are being identified outside of urban centers, while the rate at which young people are testing positive is flattening.
Dr. Randall Williams, director of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, said about 60 percent of Missouri's cases are from outside urban centers. The rate at which more rural areas -- particularly mid-sized cities such as Joplin and Cape Girardeau -- are adding cases has increased as case rates in metropolitan areas such as St. Louis and Kansas City have fallen.
Williams, speaking at Gov. Mike Parson's COVID-19 briefing in the Missouri Capitol, said Missouri is one of several Midwest states that continues to see elevated levels of new cases. Parson touted a drop in the seven-day positivity rate of 12.2% after the number had recently exceeded 13%.
Watch a replay of the briefing in the player below.
Hospitalizations are stable, Williams said. Parson said death rates have declined from more than 7 percent in April and May to less than 1 percent now.
Parson began his briefing by pushing for schools to offer in-person options for student learning. Some school districts, such as Columbia Public Schools, are only allowing online classes, citing high COVID-19 case rates.
However, Parson said 88% of public and charter schools are offering some kind of in-person learning.
“This is critical to their learning and development, and we’d like to see 100% of our schools providing in-person options in the near future,” Parson said.
The Columbia Board of Education will soon have to make a decision on whether to return students to classrooms, as the current plan has them all-online through September. However, the rate of COVID-19 cases tracked by CPS remains well above the rate at which administrators recommend a return to the classroom.
Administrators have provided a plan for a phased-in approach to getting students back into classrooms at the school board's request.
Parson also said four new machines for rapid saliva testing developed by Washington University will soon be distributed. He said he also anticipates Missouri receiving 3 million new rapid tests from the federal government.
Parson and Williams said the state also received a "playbook" on how to distribute a COVID-19 vaccine once one is approved. Williams said that could happen as early as November.
Earlier Wednesday, Parson signed an executive order extending the Missouri National Guard's mobilization to assist with the pandemic through Dec. 30.
National Guard troops have held many COVID-19 testing events across the state since the COVID-19 pandemic started. A two-day testing event in Columbia wrapped up Tuesday afternoon with more being held around the Show-Me state this week.
The briefing was held days after a White House report said Missouri ranked fourth-worst in the nation for its rate of new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents. The same report recommended the state implement a statewide mask order.
Missouri's August jobs report was released Wednesday morning. The report said the "pace of Missouri labor market’s recovery was essentially flat" for the last month.
With seasonal adjustments, Missouri jobs shrank by 1,200 in August, according to the report. The state's unemployment rate increased by one-tenth of a percent to 7 in August up from 6.9 in July.
The report included Missouri's unemployment rate has been equal to or less than the nation's for the past five and a half years.