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Protesters in Jefferson City call for governor to reopen state as medical professionals urge patience

Some of the protesters in Jefferson City wore protection on their faces, but many did not

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — (AP) — Protesters gathered Tuesday outside the Missouri Capitol in Jefferson City to demand that the state reopen to business after weeks of government-imposed social distancing aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus.

The protest is among several that have been held around the U.S. over the past week. In Jefferson City, many of the several hundred protesters waved the American flag and chanted “USA! USA!” A sign on a car window stated, “I prefer dangerous liberty over peaceful slavery!"

Some of the protesters in Jefferson City wore protection on their faces, but many did not. Several also stood near each other, ignoring recommendations that people remain at least 6 feet apart. Some young children were present.

The protest came on the same day that the state Corrections Department announced the first inmate inside a Missouri prison to test positive for COVID-19. The Southeast Correctional Center prisoner and his former cellmate are in isolation, and everyone in the wing where he was previously housed is in quarantine, according to the agency.

The prison is screening the temperatures and symptoms of all prisoners in that wing and putting anyone with symptoms in isolation pending test results. Four other inmates have been tested for the virus.

Statewide, 16 new deaths from the coronavirus were reported in Missouri on Tuesday, bringing the total to 215, according to Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Systems Science and Engineering. The number of cases rose by 156 to 5,963.

Republican Gov. Mike Parson last week extended the statewide stay-at-home order to May 3, but said that starting May 4, some businesses will be allowed to reopen, with some restrictions such as limits on the number of people allowed inside.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.

Among the latest deaths are 10 more people in the city of St. Louis. Nine of the victims were black residents, continuing an alarming trend that is being seen in many places across the U.S.

RELATED: St. Louis County records 7 new deaths due to COVID-19

RELATED: 10 more COVID-19 deaths announced in St. Louis Monday

Thirty-two of the 40 people in St. Louis who have died from COVID-19, the virus caused by the coronavirus, were black. The city’s population is about evenly split between blacks and whites.

Jackson County will provide temporary emergency housing for homeless people who have tested positive for the coronavirus, the county’s Democratic executive, Frank White Jr., announced. The agreement with the Greater Kansas City Coalition to End Homelessness provides housing at the Salvation Army Kansas City Three Trails Camp for up to 12 weeks. County lawmakers approved $450,000 for the program on Monday.

Hospitalizations for the coronavirus rose 60% from the beginning of the month in the St. Louis area. Data released Tuesday showed 750 patients hospitalized, 187 in intensive care and 130 on ventilators.

Dr. Alex Garza, head of the St. Louis Regional Pandemic Task Force, warned that reopening businesses too soon “could lead to a second wave more devastating than the first.”

RELATED: When can we start to reopen Missouri? Not yet, St. Louis doctors say

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