Missouri Governor Mike Parson said he will not issue any new mandates to help curb the spread of COVID-19.
During a press briefing Thursday, Parson talked about the strain that hospitals are under as they struggle to care for a record number of COVID-19 patients. He said staffing is the main issue, and the State of Missouri is looking at several options to address that. Two of those possibilities, according to Parson, are using military expertise or recruiting healthcare workers from other states.
But one thing that is not on the table that healthcare professionals have pleaded with Parson to implement is a statewide mask mandate.
"The emphasis that was put on by some media outlets is like I am opposed to wearing a mask," he said. "I have never been opposed to that. Never have I ever done that. What I am opposed of is mandates from this position to the people of this state."
Parson said "the virus is everywhere," but he said he’ll continue to leave mask mandates and other restrictions up to local government leaders.
As public health leaders continue advising citizens to not gather in large groups this holiday season, Parson said he’s not going to tell anyone what they should do in their own homes.
"As the governor of the State of Missouri, I am not going to mandate who goes in the front door of your home. Whatever your family is is your family," he said. "Your private residence is your private residence. Government has no business going through the front door of your homes to decide how many members of your family are there, how many are not."
But he recommended that Missourians change the way they celebrate this year.
Parson announced an extension of the state of emergency in Missouri until March 31, 2021, and he said the State of Missouri is issuing a set of guidance for cities and counties. It will be a public health warning, he said, that will include offering guidance to local government leaders and encouraging them to take action to bring COVID-19 numbers down.
But he stressed personal responsibility and said it's up to individuals to change their behaviors.
"At the end of the day, I'm going to stress to you again, as many people out there would like to say, 'it's government's responsibility.' It's not," he said. "It's our responsibility as citizens of this great state to take it upon ourselves to do the right thing."
Dr. Randall Williams, director of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services said Thursday he's encouraged by the development of vaccines for COVID-19. He said he "fully anticipates" that in December and January the state will be able to move quickly through the tier one phase of vaccination, which will include long-term care facility staff and healthcare providers.
There are currently 10 sites in Missouri that can store a vaccine that must be kept at 90 degrees below zero, he said.