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Missouri governor says he's feeling good

Austin Huguelet Springfield News-Leader

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson said Wednesday he was feeling good a week after testing positive for COVID-19.

In a virtual press conference from the Governor’s Mansion in Jefferson City, Parson said he’s still working, has no symptoms and plans to be “back to a normal schedule Monday.”

He then repeated news that first lady Teresa Parson is also doing well back home in Bolivar, said both of them “are so grateful that we are two of over 100,000-plus Missourians who have recovered” and thanked front-line health workers for their efforts so far in the pandemic.

Then Parson, a Republican, pivoted to a rundown of his administration’s response to the virus, which has received uneven reviews as caseloads continue to climb.

Despite seemingly unending calls for a statewide mask mandate in recent months, Parson said his team remains focused on four “pillars” – testing, personal protective equipment, hospital capacity and data – and offered personal reassurance that all four are “stable.”

As evidence, he noted the state set a record with more than 122,000 tests administered for the week of Sept. 13.

Indeed, state records confirm that number, though it does not necessarily tell the whole story. Despite a rise in tests per capita, a higher percentage of them are coming back positive now than ever before, state statistics show.

Similarly, while the state’s hospital capacity has yet to be overwhelmed, a sustained rise in cases since mid-summer appears to be taking its toll nonetheless.

Executives from CoxHealth and Mercy in Springfield said last week a surge in cases here has pushed facilities close to their limits with flu season just around the corner.

And while officials such as Parson have at times described recovered cases as a monolith, doctors like Cox’s Robin Trotman have said the state’s death rate – which available state data show is less than 2 percent out of more than 127,000 confirmed cases – isn’t the only thing worth monitoring.

Those who survive the virus can have a chronic cough, heart damage and other lingering symptoms, Trotman said.

After addressing the “pillars,” Parson said his team is also making preparations to distribute a vaccine as soon as one becomes available. He then pivoted to the economy, where he said the state’s numbers compare favorably to the rest of the country.

He said the state has recovered more than 200,000 of the 340,000 jobs lost in the crisis, a record better than all but 11 other states, and said consumer spending has been back up to or above pre-pandemic levels since late August.

"These numbers are very encouraging,” he said, “and we will continue to do everything we can to rebuild our economy.”

He also answered questions submitted earlier by the news media, including one asking if he’d learned anything new about COVID-19 he didn’t know before he was infected.

To that one, he said testing positive reinforced the need to follow standard precautions and the need to keep moving forward.

“Life goes on,” he said. “Me and Teresa are both very thankful, we’re people that can stand up here and we can talk about along with hundreds of thousands of other people in this state that have gone through this process.”

“That doesn't mean there's not people out there every day that have serious consequences, that are much more vulnerable than what me and Teresa were,” he added. “But the idea of it is, you have to deal with it, and you have to keep moving forward, and you have to do everything you can to protect other people and we’re going to continue to do that.”