(The Center Square) – Missouri Republican Gov. Mike Parson announced during a press conference on Wednesday the COVID-19 pandemic was over and the state will begin an endemic phase on Friday.
“We want to be clear: The virus is here to stay and we must all maintain diligence,” Parson said at the state Capitol. “But Missourians have learned to live with COVID while living their normal lives. There are sure to be new challenges in the future, whether COVID or something else. But we have proven that whatever comes our way, we can handle it.”
Parson and Paula Nickelson, acting director of the Department of Health and Senior Services, said the state’s resources devoted to COVID-19 during the past two years helped all Missourians. When the endemic phase begins on Friday, daily dashboard updates will be replaced with weekly updates with seven-day case rate data, activity by region and county, statewide data on COVID-19 hospitalizations and variants.
Nickelson said the “science doesn’t support” daily updates.
“We feel like the information will be adequate,” Nickelson said. “The changes that you see on a regional basis will not happen that quickly and so there’s no need for that level (of information). The second outcome is that we have tremendous levels of resources at the state and local level committed to that data analysis and pushing out that information. This will allow us to recenter and refocus those resources.”
Parson emphasized that the state’s resources would be available for any sudden outbreak of the virus in nursing homes or other areas. Nickelson added the state’s not moving too quickly or prematurely to the endemic phase.
“The planning for the endemic phase allows us to ramp up and be flexible, if necessary,” Nickelson said. “To be clear, when we say ramp back up, we will still not advocate for mask or vaccine mandates. We will not advocate for lockdowns. We will provide consultation to local jurisdictions regarding mitigation strategies which may be useful given the level of severity of the disease.”
Parson emphasized that the state’s current unemployment rate is 3.7%, with 15,000 people drawing unemployment benefits while there are approximately 150,000 job openings.
“Over the past two years, the people of Missouri have adjusted,” Parson said. “They have adapted and they have prevailed. We have emerged out from under this cloud of COVID-19 with a renewed spirit that is stronger than ever before. While the COVID-19 endemic phase will continue, the time for the crisis pandemic response has ended. The COVID-19 crisis is over in the state of Missouri, and we are moving on.”