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Gov. Parson extends Phase 1 of Missouri's reopening plan

Phase 1 will now continue through June 15, the governor announced Thursday afternoon

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Gov. Mike Parson is extending Phase 1 of Missouri's recovery plan, which was set to expire this Sunday.

Phase 1 will now continue through Monday, June 15, which falls in line with the state's executive orders and state of emergency, which are set to end the same day.

Gov. Parson stressed the extension does not indicate the state has taken a step backward in its recovery from the coronavirus.

“We want to make sure we’re fully prepared for Phase 2,” he said. “Our efforts are showing positive results.”

The governor said there no changes with Phase 1.

"As long as social distancing and other necessary health and safety measures are implemented, businesses can still be open," he explained.

There are no limits on social gatherings “as long as precautions are taken and 6 feet of distance can be maintained.”

Gov. Parson said viral scenes at the Lake of the Ozarks showing people ignoring social distancing rules did not factor into his decision to extend Phase 1. He said that decision was already well underway. He said the incidents at the lake only show a small example of what Missourians are doing, and he’s “confident that people will do the right thing.”

READ MORE: Here's how Dr. Fauci reacted to viral scenes from Lake of the Ozarks

"The bottom line is that we must continue to social distance, use common sense and make responsible decisions to protect ourselves and others," Gov. Parson said. "As long as we do this, we will continue the progress we have made with our recovery plan."

When asked whether there will be state enforcement on social distancing, the governor again emphasized those decisions are up to local officials.

“Local control sometimes needs to take the responsibility, good and bad,” Gov. Parson said.

As for what Phase 2 could look like, the governor is hopeful that more businesses will be able to reopen, including some sports activities, putting more people back to work. He wants the state to get to a point where things can move forward without executive orders.

He also wants Missourians to take it upon themselves to social distance, without orders having to tell them to keep a safe distance of 6 feet.

“We just gotta be cautious with how we conduct ourselves,” Parson said.

Phase 1 of Missouri "Show Me Strong" Recovery Plan allows all businesses across the state to reopen if local leaders agree.

You can read the full public health order extending Phase 1 to June 15 on the state's website here.

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services reported an increase of 181 COVID-19 cases and 11 deaths Thursday. The department reported a total of 12,673 cases and 707 deaths, according to the state's website. The state also reported an increase of 5,560 new PCR tests, bringing the state's total to 170,864.

READ MORE: Missouri health department reports 201 new COVID-19 cases, 5,000 new tests

Gov. Parson disputes story that says COVID-19 was in Missouri weeks before first case was announced

Missouri Governor Mike Parson addressed an article out of Kansas City that said coronavirus was in the state weeks before the first case was announced.

“This is very misleading and insinuates that we knew of other positive cases prior to the first announcement on March 7, which is not true,” Gov. Parson said during his daily briefing on Facebook Live Wednesday.

The Kansas City Star published the story “Coronavirus was in Missouri weeks before first case was announced, state data shows” on Tuesday.

“Ten people appeared to have the virus in February, according to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, which revamped its website last week. Randall Williams, director of the health agency, said that the new dates were based on when patients reported first becoming symptomatic,” the newspaper reported, while showing a screengrab of Missouri’s new COVID-19 dashboard, which you can see below.

Credit: State of Missouri

The graph does show a reported case as early as Feb. 2 and several others between that date and the first case the state confirmed on March 7, which was in St. Louis County.

Gov. Parson said the state health lab wasn’t approved to begin COVID-19 testing until Feb. 27. He said from Jan. 22 – Feb. 27 nine tests from Missouri residents were sent to the CDC and all came back negative.

Parson said there were about 50 people who had symptoms before March 7.

“But it is not confirmed that these earlier symptoms were due to COVID-19 diagnosis, that followed later. The dates on our dashboard from early February represent the onset of symptoms, not the date they tested positive,” Parson explained.

He went on to say the cases could be either earlier cases of coronavirus or someone who had a prior illness who later developed the virus.

“Many of the symptoms of COVID are very common and can have other causes, so it is very difficult to determine if cases with earlier onset of symptoms were due to COVID or a prior illness,” Gov. Parson said.

He admitted it is possible the virus was in Missouri before the first case was confirmed in the state health lab on March 7, but that there is no way to know for sure.

“Everything, everything prior to that is pure speculation,” he said.

The governor also defended his administration’s transparency in reporting information to Missourians.

“To accuse my administration of not being transparent is a downright false accusation, also,” he said.

The governor explained that he held a news conference the same day the first case was announced, along with more than 50 COVID-19 briefings and more than 600 media questions answered.

RELATED: Gov. Parson disputes story that says COVID-19 was in Missouri weeks before first case was announced