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Regional leaders plead with Gov. Parson to order tighter COVID-19 restrictions

In a letter obtained by 5 On Your Side, hospital and civic leaders told Parson "Missouri must act now"

ST. LOUIS — In a letter to Governor Mike Parson, 10 hospital and civic leaders from St. Louis, Kansas City and Springfield called on the governor to "immediately order uniform social distancing across Missouri to mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic."

The group includes the CEO's of BJC Health and SSM Health, the Senior Vice President of Mercy St. Louis and President and CEO of the St. Louis Regional Chamber.

The group said they are relying on "medical experts" who said social distancing is essential to slow the pandemic's spread and ensure hospitals have the capacity to care for COVID-19 patients with "life-threatening symptoms."

"The number of patients with such symptoms will increase exponentially in the coming days," the letter said. "Missouri must act now."

The letter was sent to the governor's Chief of Staff Aaron Willard by the President of Civic Progress St. Louis Tom Santel on Thursday.

Friday, in an email also obtained by 5 On Your Side, Willard responded in part by referring to Parson's Friday afternoon briefing in which he "emphasized the importance of social distancing and specifically encouraged only congregating in groups of 10 or less," Willard wrote.

Social distancing is not the only action the group wants the governor to order.

They also asked the governor to close all schools in the state until public health officials advise it is safe to reopen, order all restaurants and bars to transition to take-out or delivery service or close, and "strongly urge all Missourians to avoid non-essential activities."

Willard replied that as of Friday all school districts in the state had made the decision on their own to close and expressed support for the decision of local leaders in St. Louis to enacted further restrictions on businesses.

"You also know that Missouri has many very diverse communities across 114 counties and not every community has the resources and assets that St. Louis has to offer," wrote Willard. "We also have to represent those communities and to be honest they are at varying stages of preparedness."

"Our concern has been that forcing them to meet a deadline that they cannot meet only creates more panic, and subsequently more fear and fear is one of the biggest things we are also trying to combat," Willard wrote.

The letter from the regional leaders to Parson said, "The coronavirus does not respect state lines, city limits or other jurisdictional boundaries. This public health emergency will affect all Missourians – no matter what county, municipality or ZIP code they call home."

Missouri now has three deaths and 73 confirmed cases of coronavirus as of March 20, according to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services.

The number of COVID-19 cases in Missouri nearly doubled from when Gov. Parson gave the Friday afternoon update. At that time, he announced 47 cases in the state. Missouri was at 28 confirmed cases on Thursday.

RELATED: Coronavirus cases jump to 73 people in Missouri Friday night

"Governor Parson, we are experiencing a global health emergency the likes of which we have not seen in our lifetimes. These extraordinary times require bold and decisive leadership across our state," the letter said.

In Willard's response he said “We will get through this and do it together." And, said the Parson administration's response to COVID-19 would "continue to evolve" with coming "additional guidance and more specific support options related to COVID-19."

The 10 leaders who signed the letter include:

  • Tom Chulick, President & CEO, St. Louis Regional Chamber St. Louis
  • Steven Edwards, President & CEO, CoxHealth Springfield
  • Jason Hall, CEO & Co-Founder, Arch to Park St. Louis
  • Steve Johnson, President & CEO, AllianceSTL, St. Louis
  • Melinda Estes, President & CEO, St. Luke’s Health System Kansas City
  • Jeff Johnston Senior Vice President & Regional President, Mercy St. Louis
  • Richard Liekweg, President & CEO, BJCHealthCare St. Louis
  • Laura Kaiser, President & CEO, SSM Health St. Louis
  • Kathy Osborn, President & CEO, Regional Business Council St. Louis
  • Tom Santel, President, Civic Progress St. Louis

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