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Blunt visits rural areas to advocate for broadband expansion and vaccines

 Sen. Roy Blunt speaks with economic development officials in Salem as part of a tour around south central Missouri to rural communities.
Jonathan Ahl
/
St. Louis Public Radio
Sen. Roy Blunt speaks with economic development officials in Salem as part of a tour around south central Missouri to rural communities.

SALEM — U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt met with economic development and health care officials around south-central Missouri on Thursday, and said two common themes were broadband access and the coronavirus pandemic.

Blunt said the federal government needs to increase its support for expansion of high-speed internet into rural locations.

“It seems to me that the last couple years has created more urgency to get there than we might have had before all of the different dynamics of COVID,” Blunt said. “Going to the doctor online or attending school virtually became a necessity, and not everyone could do it.”

Blunt was one of 17 Republican senators who joined the Democratic majority in voting for an infrastructure bill still being debated that would spend $65 billion on rural internet expansion.

On the topic of the COVID vaccine, Blunt reiterated his long-standing advocacy for people to get vaccinated.

“It really is an amazing thing, and it’s the best protection we have,” Blunt said.

But Blunt also said he continues to oppose a federal vaccination mandate of any kind.

“Missourians don’t want to be told what to do,” he said.

Blunt said the best way to increase rural counties' low vaccination rates is to have trusted sources tell personal stories of what happened to their families — "because somebody didn’t realize until it was too late that there is a better way to take care of themselves.”

While Blunt opposes federal mandates, he does support the right of local governmental bodies like school boards to put mask mandates in place or require vaccines for employees.

Blunt made stops in Mountain Grove, Houston, Salem, Cuba and Potosi.

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Jonathan Ahl reports from the Rolla Bureau for St. Louis Public Radio. His duties also include covering central and southern Missouri for Harvest Public Media. Before coming to St. Louis Public Radio in November of 2018, Jonathan was the General Manager for Tri States Public Radio in Macomb, Illinois. He previously was the News Director at Iowa Public Radio and before that at WCBU in Peoria, Illinois. Jonathan has also held reporting positions in central Illinois for public radio stations. Jonathan is originally from the Chicago area. He has a B.A. in Music Theory and Composition from Western Illinois University and an M.A. in Public Affairs Reporting from the University of Illinois at Springfield. He is an avid long distance runner, semi-professional saxophonist and die-hard Chicago Cubs fan.