Missouri reports nearly 800 more coronavirus cases

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — Missouri on Thursday once again broke state records for the highest single-day increase in confirmed coronavirus cases as close to another 800 people were reported sick.

Data released by the state health department show another 795 cases reported Thursday, bringing the total number of confirmed coronavirus cases to 25,999 in Missouri.

Another five deaths were reported, taking the total confirmed death toll related to the virus to at least 1,051, according to health department data.

Department of Health and Senior Services Director Randall Williams on Thursday acknowledged the rise in cases. He said half of the increases in cases are in St. Louis, Kansas City, and Jasper and Boone counties, and new cases are being spread primarily by young people who infect many others.

There are no statewide social distancing or mask orders currently in effect in Missouri, but Williams said young people still need to social distance or wear a mask.

“As we open up we are clearly seeing that people are not practicing social distancing or using hand-washing or using masks,” Williams said. “So we really need you to do that.”

Despite the lack of statewide orders, some cities have instituted their own. And Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas said in a news release Thursday that he was planning to extend his mask order. The release did not provide details on the length of the extension but said it would be announced in a press conference at City Hall on Friday morning.

Thursday is the second time in days that the state has broken its own records for the highest single-day increase in cases.

Reported cases increased by 773 from Monday to Tuesday and spiked by more than 2,100 in the past three days.

Health officials have attributed higher-than-normal increases this week in part to delayed reporting from labs because of the holiday weekend.

The governor and health director have pointed to a decrease in hospitalizations since the virus peaked and a drop in the rate of the virus' spread between people in an attempt to reassure Missourians that the state overall is managing the virus well.

Amid the rise in cases, state K-12 schools and colleges are preparing to reopen their doors in the fall. Parson stressed the importance of reopening K-12 school buildings, especially as calls to the state's hotline to report child neglect and abuse have dropped since schools closed.

Teachers are mandated reporters for child abuse and neglect.

Parson said to expect cases of the coronavirus in schools until a vaccine is released but that the benefits of in-person learning are worth the risks.

“That virus will be in the schools,” Parson said. “I don't think there's any reason for us to think it's not going to be there. It will be in the universities. As that happens, you just got to be prepared for that.”

Higher Education Commissioner Zora Mulligan also on Thursday announced that roughly $114 million in federal coronavirus aid will go to help colleges and universities reopen in the fall, expand virtual education and cope with increased expenses and decreased revenue because of the virus.