JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Missouri’s governor said the state will triple the number of doses given in a day by the end of the week.
Gov. Mike Parson said in a one-on-one interview with our Missouri Capitol Bureau Reporter Emily Manley Thursday, the state had been administering 5,000 doses a day but by Friday that number will be around 20,000.
Originally, Parson wasn’t on board with the vaccine incentive program, offering Missourians a chance to win $10,000 to get a vaccine, but now he’s crediting it.
“I think originally the Delta variant wasn’t where it was when I first said I wasn’t sold on this idea, but the other thing, it’s a tool in the toolbox,” Parson said.
“We know with the Delta variant rising up as much as it is, that we need to do everything we can to encourage people to take a vaccine.”
According to the state’s website, 41 percent of Missouri’s population is fully vaccinated. Acting Director for the Department of Health and Senior Services Robert Knodell said Wednesday, the age group 12-17 has the lowest vaccination rate at less than 22 percent.
“I think nobody was ready, nobody was expecting the Delta Variant to come in the way it came in,” Parson said.
While the governor credits Missouri’s Vaccine Incentive Program (VIP), he also believes people are realizing how sick you can get from the Delta variant.
“A lot of people are starting to realize a lot of people are starting to get really sick with this Delta variant in their own neighborhoods,” Parson said. “I think people are starting to realize the importance of the vaccine.”
Earlier this week, the CDC released new guidelines asking everyone, no matter their vaccination status, to wear a mask indoors.
“I truly believe you have to send a message that vaccination is good and it does some good, but to try to put vaccinated people in the same category as unvaccinated, I think, sends a very confusing message to the general public,” Parson said.
The state’s two largest cities both implemented a mask mandate this week. St. Louis County Executive Sam Page and St. Louis City Mayor Tishuara Jones announced Monday, anyone, indoors, regardless of if they have been vaccinated or not, must wear a mask.
The next day, the county council overturned the order. Then, Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas also announced masks would also be required indoors no matter if you are vaccinated or not in his city.
“I don’t know why if you were a governor or a mayor or an executive director of a county, why you wouldn’t want to listen to the people and have the city council play a part in that role, especially today knowing the situation we’re in,” Parson said.
During session, lawmakers passed House Bill 271, restricting how long local health departments can issue an order or regulation in a state of emergency. Parson said because of that legislation he disagrees with the mask mandates.
“Now we’re coming back on the more regulatory side, more of a mandate side when we have a vaccine,” Parson said.
“We’ve had a lot of people vaccinated and I think when you start talking mask mandates and shutting down again, I think that’s the wrong path to take.”
The governor saying the effects of this even took him by surprise.
“Were we disappointed that all this happened again?” Parson said. “Sure, we were, but again, it proves to you that it’s a virus. Nobody out there knows exactly where this is going to go or where it’s going to end up.”
Missouri’s state of emergency is set to end Aug. 31. Manley asked Parson about the rising number of COVID hospitalizations and cases in some parts of the state if he plans to extend that order.
“This discussion comes up all the time, on a daily basis, we’re trying to figure it out if we do that, but we watch all the numbers every day to see where we may be headed for that, if we need to extend it, we’ll extend it, that’s not a problem for me,” Parson said.
“That’s a decision we’ll make probably in the next couple of weeks, probably by the middle of August we’ll be making a decision to make that order.”
Parson also discussed what’s next for Medicaid expansion in the state, after the Missouri Supreme Court unanimously ruled the amendment did not violate state law.
“If the judge orders us to start paying for this, I mean, if you literally had to pay for that out of general revenue, we would be out of money by the first of the year,” Parson said.
Voters approved expansion on the ballot last August, to make an additional 275,000 Missourians making less than $18,000 eligible for Medicaid. It was expected to cost the state less than $130 million, but overall cost $1.9 billion.
Back in June, the Cole County Circuit Court ruled the amendment unconstitutional after three single moms sued the state for not moving forward with expansion.
Parson said earlier this year the state couldn’t move forward and allow expansion to happen since lawmakers did not fund it.
“I think what we are trying to do is prepare for both directions, you know preparing if we do get funding to do it, preparing if a judge comes in and says we have to do this, what is that going to look like,” Parson said.
“We can’t just sit on the sidelines and wait.”
Medicaid expansion is set to be in front of the Cole County judge again Aug. 6 for an injunction hearing where the state could find out when they have to start enrolling people into Medicaid.
Here’s more information and how to enter Missouri’s vaccine incentive program:
Entries will be divided into three categories:
- Red: Missourians age 18 and up receiving at least one dose of vaccine after July 21.
- White: Missourians age 18 and up receiving at least one dose of vaccine before July 21.
- Blue: Missourians ages 12 to 17 receiving at least one dose of vaccine at any time.
A winner must meet all of the following eligibility requirements:
- Must be a living citizen of the United States and a permanent resident of the State of Missouri.
- Must be age 12 or older.
- Must have received at least the first COVID-19 vaccination if receiving the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or one dose if receiving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, prior to the drawing date (records will be verified).
Eighty winners will be randomly selected during each drawing from the Red and White categories. There will be ten winners from each congressional district.
During each drawing, 20 adolescents from the Blue category will be randomly selected to receive a $10,000 education savings account through the Missouri State Treasurer’s MOST 529 program.
To enter your name for a chance to win, visit www.mostopscovid.com/win
Those without the ability to enter the sweepstakes online can get assistance by calling the COVID-19 hotline Monday-Friday from 7:30 a.m.-7:30 p.m. at 877-435-8411.