JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (KMIZ)
Missouri Gov. Mike Parson introduced two new members of his cabinet Wednesday.
Parson publicly named his new heads of the Department of Mental Health and Department of Revenue during a news conference at the Capitol. Wayne Wallingford, a state senator representing Cape Girardeau from 2013 to 2020 and current state House member, will be the state's new revenue director. Parson named Valerie Huhn director of mental health, where she has been deputy director since last year.
Huhn will take over her position Saturday and Wallingford will assume control of the revenue department Monday.
Questions during the news conference turned to the coronavirus pandemic and measures to control the spread of the more transmissible omicron variant. Parson criticized the federal response, saying it was causing confusion among Missourians.
"I think (people) want to be done with mandates," Parson said. He said the coronavirus vaccine works but no one should be forced to take it.
Parson said the state isn't suffering from a shortage of tests, though lines might be long in some places. The state in May started a program to ship tests to people's homes, which is still active. Parson said Missouri is much more prepared to fight the virus than it was at the pandemic's beginning nearly two years ago.
Hospitalizations in Missouri for COVID-19 have doubled since mid-November while new cases numbers continue to surge. Some hospitals are reporting staffing problems because of workers calling out sick with the coronavirus.