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Missouri lagging behind Illinois, other states in statewide response to COVID-19

More than 35 states have issued statewide stay-at-home orders, but Missouri has not

ST. LOUIS — Coronavirus cases in Missouri and Illinois continue to increase rapidly, but the state and their governors have made different decisions when it comes to measures that experts say could lessen the spread.

As of April 1, more than 35 states have issued statewide stay-at-home orders. Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker issued his on March 21. Missouri is one of the states without a statewide stay-at-home order.

RELATED: These states have issued stay-at-home orders, here's what that means

On Wednesday, Governor Mike Parson said people should "listen to the orders" and stay at home as much as possible even though he has not issued a statewide stay-at-home order. 

"The most important step anyone can take right now is staying at home," he said. "No matter where you live or how old you are, everyone should be staying home as much as possible. By not following these orders, you're putting yourself and everyone around you at risk."

When saying "orders", Parson was likely referring to the stay-at-home rules local leaders have put in place on their own. 

As recently as Tuesday, Gov. Parson said he did not plan to issue a statewide order despite mounting calls for him to do so from medical professionals and leaders in the St. Louis and Kansas City areas.

RELATED: 'This is not the time to play politics' | Parson continues to resist statewide stay-at-home order

Earlier in the week, however, Parson did close multiple state parks after people reported overcrowding over the weekend as the weather warmed.

Parson has insisted that people staying inside will come down to "individual responsibility."

RELATED: 'It’s going to come down to individual responsibilities' | Missouri Gov. Parson has no plans to implement statewide stay-at-home order

In Illinois, the stay-at-home order was issued four days after Gov. Pritzker ordered all schools to close, another measure widely used to limit the spread of COVID-19.

In Missouri, Parson never ordered the closure of schools, but on March 19 he announced that all 555 school districts in the state had decided to do it on their own. Schools have not re-opened for in-person classes since.

Many local school districts made the decision to end in-person classes after St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson, St. Louis County Executive Dr. Sam Page, St. Charles County Executive Steve Ehlmann, St. Clair County, Illinois, Board Chairman Mark Kern and Madison County, Illinois, Board Chairman Kurt Prenzler restricted social gatherings to fewer than 50 people and suggested closing schools on March 16.

RELATED: Leaders in Greater St. Louis area restrict social gatherings to fewer than 50 people, suggest closing schools

Earlier on March 16, Gov. Pritzker signed an executive order limiting social gatherings to fewer than 50 people and ordering restaurants to switch to carryout or curbside service only.

RELATED: Gov. Pritzker orders bars, restaurants in Illinois to close to public starting Monday night

Those decisions came after the CDC issued a statement saying people should avoid crowds of more than 50 people. In a statement, Gov. Parson "strongly urged" people in Missouri to abide by those guidelines but stopped short of issuing any formal orders.

As part of his stay-at-home order, Pritzker also required all non-essential services close, a step Parson has not taken.

St. Clair County, Illinois, has seen slow growth in COVID-19 cases and Board Chairman Mark Kern said the stay-at-home order is necessary to slow the spread of COVID-19.

"Shelter in place is something every person can do to make sure that this virus goes away," he said Tuesday. "Unfortunately, when you have a piecemeal effort — as is going on in some states — that's a problem."

The importance of these distancing measures was laid out by The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation(IHME). The institute is part of the University of Washington and is being used by the White House coronavirus task force to provide projections on the coronavirus outbreak. IHME is forecasting when the peak of the coronavirus will be for each state based on data currently available.

RELATED: Here's when COVID-19 could peak in Missouri and Illinois

The forecast currently projects Missouri and Illinois will see similar death rates per capita, but it bases that number on having social distancing and other measures in place now or in the next few days.

"The estimated excess demand on hospital systems is predicated on the enactment of social distancing measures in all states that have not done so already within the next week and maintenance of these measures throughout the epidemic, emphasizing the importance of implementing, enforcing, and maintaining these measures to mitigate hospital system overload and prevent deaths," the forecast's conclusion says.

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