Governor Mike Parson toured southwest Missouri on Monday to promote his plans for the reopening of Missouri following the coronavirus lockdown.
After two stops in Joplin, the Governor was greeted with a rousing reception at Bass Pro Shops’ flagship store in Springfield before touring the COVID-19 ward at Cox South Hospital.
“I should have known better than to ask Johnny Morris to be low key,” the Governor joked before a room full of Bass Pro employees and media.
Parson then went on to talk about his goals for the morning’s trip.
“We’re trying to get the state back opened up,” Parson said. “We’re trying to get the economy going in the state of Missouri.”
Parson also praised the citizens of Missouri for their efforts in fighting the coronavirus outbreak.
“There have been some remarkable things in this state where people have stepped up to help fight this virus all the way from the medical and the health arena to everyday people doing what they were asked to do,” Parson said. “I can’t thank the people of this state enough.”
Parson noted something Bass Pro Shops founder Johnny Morris said before the Governor’s address regarding Missourians that the Governor felt was a key to how the state responded to the viral outbreak.
“One thing he said that I believe truly represents Missouri, and that’s common sense,” Parson said. “Common sense and a hard work ethic…the only reason most of you are here today, the reason most people are successful, nobody gives you nothing in this old world, you have to work for it.”
After a quick tour of the Bass Pro store with Morris to talk with members of the Bass Pro staff, Parson traveled to Cox South hospital for a tour of the COVID-19 ward and to meet with some of Cox’s top doctors and nurses who are on the front line of the COVID-19 fight.
Parson praised the construction crews that build the ward in two weeks, saying that once the outbreak is over lessons learned during the outbreak can be used in other ways to spur and grow the economy.
“When all this calms down, when that day comes, I think you’re going to look back and see some remarkable things that happened in this state,” Parson said. He talked about the St. Louis area and concerns they had about patient totals, which led to a discussion with the Army Corps of Engineers about building a new hospital. The Corps turned a hotel into a functioning facility within 11 days.
Parson repeatedly praised CoxHealth’s efforts in combating COVID-19 and called them a leader in the state. He cited CoxHealth CEO Steve Edwards and infectious disease expert Dr. Robin Trotman as two men whom officials around the state are watching as models for virus response.
While Parson touted the economic reopening of the state and the importance of getting people back to work, noting over 400,000 Missourians who had filed for unemployment, he also said it’s important to remember the virus is still a major threat to the community.
“We have got to remember this virus is still here,” Parson said. “It’s not going away. So we have to put safety first for all the people across this state, and we have to reopen at a slow pace and in a cautious manner.”
Parson said Missouri citizens, even if they’re not under government instructions to stay at home as much as possible, need to be vigilant in their behavior to stop the spread of the virus. He called the next two weeks “critical.”
“I can’t express the importance of what it’s going to be for the people of this state over the next couple weeks,” Parson said. “We need to maintain the social distancing. You still gotta avoid the crowds. At the end of the day, the government can’t regulate us out of this virus. It’s going to take people with their own responsibility to step forward and take this on their own.”
Parson also referred in passing to critics of his plan to reopen the state, noting that no one is being forced out of their homes for social or other activities.
“If you don’t feel safe to go out, then don’t go out,” Parson said. “If you know you’re in one of those high risk categories, you need to be careful about that.”
Parson said his staff will be monitoring the situation daily and meeting with health professionals and will respond based on the data they receive from around the state.