Missouri governor candidates split on requiring masks
COLUMBIA — Missouri gubernatorial hopeful Democrat Nicole Galloway said she'll require face masks statewide as part of a plan unveiled Monday for dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.
Galloway, the state auditor, is trying to unseat Republican Gov. Mike Parson in November. Her campaign is largely focused on criticism of his handling of the virus outbreak.
Parson has repeatedly resisted calls to adopt a statewide mask mandate, citing relatively few cases in many rural counties.
"Missouri needs a reset on our coronavirus strategy— and fast," Galloway said in a statement. "Governor Parson's strategy isn't working."
On average, another 1,085 people have tested positive for the virus every day in Missouri for the past week, according to an Associated Press analysis of Johns Hopkins University's COVID-19 tracking data updated Sunday.
State health department data show that of those tested for the virus in the past week, 11.6% were confirmed positive as of Monday.
Cumulatively, at least 75,944 have been sickened by the virus in the state. COVID-19 has been attributed to the deaths of 1,426 people. No new deaths were reported Monday.
Last week Parson said that local officials in virus hotspots in the state have required masks on their own, although Joplin city council members recently let the city mask mandate expire.
"I support those local leaders in that decision and have since day one," Parson said. "I also want to add that just because masks aren't mandated everywhere does not mean you shouldn't wear one, especially if you can't social distance."
Parson enacted a statewide stay-at-home order April 6 and reopened the state May 4— one of the quickest restarts nationally.
Since reopening, he's stressed the importance of personal responsibility in slowing the virus' spread. He left it up to local health officials to decide whether to require masks but has repeatedly said people should wear masks if they're not able to social distance.
Parson also left it up to local schools to decide whether and how to handle reopening.
"There is no one-size-fits-all approach," Parson said in a statement. "Every school district will look different based on the needs of its students and community."
The state's K-12 and higher education agencies released guidance on how to prevent and respond to virus outbreaks, and Parson's administration is giving out 1.8 million cloth masks to school districts.
Galloway's plan includes statewide rules on when schools can offer in-person classes depending on the number of current cases in the community.
Under her plan, she'd ask the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to issue minimum guidelines for when schools could offer in-person learning, a combination of in-person and virtual teaching, and online only classes.
Guidelines would be based on new cases relative to population in each county over the past two weeks. Fully in-person classes would only be allowed in counties with low coronavirus cases relative to population.