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Missouri has second coronavirus case as cancellations grow

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Missouri has recorded a second case of the novel coronavirus, officials said Thursday, as events were cancelled across the state because of concerns over COVID-19.

The person is in the early 20s and had recently traveled to Austria, Gov. Mike Parson said at a news conference in Springfield, Missouri. The person was tested Thursday at a Springfield clinic and results returned as positive, Parson said. The patient is quarantined at home with mild symptoms and was expected to recover, he said.

Officials would provide no other information on the patient, but Parsons noted that of 73 tests for COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus, have been performed so far in Missouri. All but two returned as negative, and both positive results involved travel-related infections. No cases have been found of the virus spreading in Missouri, he said.

The state lab now has the capacity to perform 1,000 COVID-19 tests, and more kits were expected shortly, the governor said.

Also Thursday, Kansas City and St. Louis banned all public events with more than 1,000 attendees.

St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson announced that city’s ban and declared a public health emergency Thursday afternoon. The ban will be in effect “until further notice” but includes exceptions for daily activities at schools and churches, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas announced a similar ban shortly after organizers canceled a St. Patrick’s Day parade in the city. St. Louis and Springfield also canceled their parades.

“Protecting all of our residents remains our top priority, which means that how we interact over the weeks and months ahead will need to change dramatically as we confront our current public health challenge,” Lucas said. “I appreciate our community’s understanding during this ever-changing time and encourage all residents to continue exercising good judgment.”

The Department of Corrections on Thursday announced Missouri’s 20 state-run prisons will be closed to visitors for the next 30 days. Attorneys will be permitted to visit their clients. The agency said none of the estimated 26,000 inmates has been diagnosed with the virus.

Missouri’s first confirmed case of COVID-19 was a St. Louis-area woman in her 20s who had been studying in Italy and tested positive for the coronavirus last week after returning home.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.

The vast majority of people recover from the new virus. According to the World Health Organization, people with mild illness recover in about two weeks, while those with more severe illness may take three to six weeks to recover.

Several universities in the state have been moving classes online due to the virus that WHO has now labelled a pandemic, while Missouri Senate Majority Leader Caleb Rowden said on Twitter late Wednesday that the chamber was cancelling its session next week.

Meanwhile, the German agribusiness giant Bayer AG has reopened a suburban St. Louis campus after an employee whose illness prompted the closure tested negative for the virus.

The campus in Creve Coeur, which is Bayer’s North American headquarters for its Crop Science Division, reopened Thursday after undergoing precautionary cleaning. But the nearby office of its tech-focused subsidiary, The Climate Corporation, remains closed for cleaning, as do Bayer’s campuses in Whippany and Morristown, New Jersey. The Whippany office is the company’s U.S. headquarters for all of its divisions.

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St. Patrick's Day Parade called off for Saturday

The annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade in St. Joseph will not be held Saturday, March 14.

Shane McDonald, a member of the St. Joseph Ancient Order of Hibernians, said on Thursday afternoon that after long deliberations the group decided to indefinitely postpone the event because of concerns surrounding the COVID-19 outbreak.

“This difficult decision was made due to rising concerns over the last 24 hours, including the pronouncement from the World Health Organization that the virus constitutes a pandemic and guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control,” the Hibernians said in a press release.

McDonald said the group had been fielding a large number of phone calls, text messages and e-mails from people due to other St. Patrick’s Day parades around the country being canceled.

“We were also influenced by the many similar, large event gatherings being canceled in our region. Out of an abundance of caution, we feel that we need to take responsibility for containment of the spread and must indefinitely postpone the parade,” the Hibernians stated.

The group said it will monitor the situation and make a decision later on whether the event will be rescheduled.

“A decision to reschedule may be made as circumstances become clearer,” the release stated.

The parade would have been the 34th installment of the popular event, which normally brings out hundreds of people on its route down Frederick Avenue.

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County commissioners ban commercial wind energy

The Buchanan County Commission approved and adopted a recommendation from the county’s Planning and Zoning Commission to incorporate a total commercial wind energy ban Thursday.

The Planning and Zoning Commission held a work session on Feb. 19 and recommended the total ban by a vote of 8-4.

The commissioners stated five notes in the order. The notes are as follows:

1Not a single member of the public testified at the public hearings in favor of allowing commercial wind-energy projects within the jurisdiction of Buchanan County, Missouri.

2Commercial wind energy projects have a potentially negative impact on nearby property values in Buchanan County.

3Buchanan County has a unique rural population that is greater than that of other counties that have adopted commercial wind energy projects.

4Citizens of Buchanan County voiced concern regarding potential noise pollution and other quality of life issues related to the installation of commercial wind energy projects.

5There was a concern regarding the ability to effectively adopt a provision ensuring funds for the decommissioning of commercial wind energy projects.

Ron Hook, Western District county commissioner, said that they had heard people against and in favor of the turbines, but they decided to make the decision based off the vocal majority against and the concerned citizens who spoke at the two public forums.

“I think our decision was basically based on what our constituents wanted. What people in Buchanan County wanted,” Hook said.

The process took three weeks for the County Commissioners to sign the order and approve the recommendation from the Planning and Zoning Commission.

“We took a methodical process,” Presiding Commissioner Lee Sawyer said. “We talked to a lot of people, we looked at best practices around the country, we looked at like counties to see what they had done.”

Hook said while wind energy did not work for the county, the county can continue to listen for options to expand wind energy.

“I think we need to step back and just wait and see what technology brings us,” Hook said. This is an ordinance that’s in place, effective now, but that ordinance can be changed, modified — it’s a working document.”

Scott Burnham, Eastern District county commissioner, represents the part of the county that was proposed to be targeted for wind turbines by the Florida-based energy company NextEra. He said that he was proud of the Planning and Zoning Commission on the diligence they took throughout the process.

“There was a lot of effort and energy and it was a big time commitment for them that went in,” Burnham said. “I commend them for their efforts and the time that they’ve put into this.”

Steven Reardon, the representative for Marion Township, was the one who sent the proposal through to the commissioners in February. He said that he believed the commissioners handled this process well and that this was ultimately what the public wanted and the proponents did not step forward.

“I’m happy with the way the public came together and showed what they wanted,” Reardon said. “It should not be an issue now.”

Anita Simon was one of the leaders of the group Friends of Buchanan County. The group was formed to present planning and zoning as well as the county commissioners with why they were against the turbines. The group had a vocal presence at the public hearings and had over 700 signatures signed against the wind turbines.

Simon said she was very pleased and believes it is the best thing that could happen for the county. She said the commissioners followed a process just as they had promised.

“It was all worth the effort,” Simon said.

Friends of Buchanan County said in a press release they applaud the commissioners for approving and adopting the recommendation from planning and zoning.

“We thank the Planning and Zoning Commission for honoring the clear and overwhelming voice of the public in opposing commercial turbines in our densely populated county,” said the press release.

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Officials cancel events; COVID-19 testing demand locally remains low

Local officials and organizations are taking widespread actions in preparation for the COVID-19 virus, which has now infected two people in Missouri, but none so far in Northwest Missouri.

The Ancient Order of Hibernians canceled its St. Patrick’s Day Parade, the Missouri Department of Corrections suspended inmate visitation, and Diversicare ended all “nonessential” visits to its nursing homes.

Meanwhile, Mosaic Life Care Hospital is still collecting swabs for the new coronavirus, while Northwest Health Services does not have the capability.

Joey Austin, a spokesperson for Mosaic, told News-Press NOW that the hospital still has only sent in six patient swabs to be analyzed, the same number they reported Wednesday.

Northwest Health has not seen anyone who meets screening criteria to be sent for testing as of 2 p.m. Thursday, Doctor Francisco Aleman said.

“Reinforcing basic hygiene is going to be the best thing that you can do to protect yourself,” Aleman said.

He stressed staying 6 feet away from those who are sick, consistent hand washing and not touching the face.

Sadie Kennedy, clinic coordinator for the St. Joseph Health Department, said she has five COVID-19 test kits on hand that could be distributed if necessary, though there is a bureaucratic process.

“Even with my epidemiologist, he has to go off of what the state of Missouri is saying for the criteria,” she said. “Everything is going through a hotline number to the state.”

That hotline, 877-435-8411, was overwhelmed by demand early Thursday afternoon. The number also is accessible to the public for questions.

Aleman said patients without a primary care provider should call the hotline, but added Northwest Health is making a concerted effort to keep its phone lines free so new patients can schedule appointments.

Both Kennedy and Aleman said those with COVID-19 concerns should call a medical facility before coming in, if possible.

Both private and public labs have begun testing samples for COVID-19. However, Kennedy said Mosaic doesn’t have a contract with a private lab, meaning any samples will have to be tested by the state until one is signed.

According to Kennedy, the state can turn a test around in about a day, while private labs are generally taking three or four days. She added that private labs are usually faster to accept a proposed patient’s swab.

Kansas announced its first death from COVID-19 on Thursday. Gov. Laura Kelly said the man was in his 70s and in long-term care.

An official for the Wathena Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center confirmed late Thursday that it’s closed to visitors.

Other organizations are monitoring the virus, but not taking restrictive action.

The Buchanan County Jail has instituted a screening process at its booking station and is deep-cleaning common areas in the overnight hours.

Local government officials will meet at the Remington Nature Center at 1 p.m. on Friday to discuss government action.

Possible plans include limiting access to the Buchanan County Courthouse, though Buchanan County Presiding Commissioner Lee Sawyer said no decisions had been made.

The Kansas City-St. Joseph Catholic Archdiocese said those who are sick are released from Mass obligations, as are those at a high risk for contracting COVID-19 on a case-by-case basis, though the organization did not announce any cancellations.

Rolling Hills Library will keep its Savannah and St. Joseph locations open “as long as possible” and will start curbside pickup of library materials beginning March 16.

Associated Press 

A board above the trading floor of the New York Stock Exchange shows the closing Dow Jones Industrial Average number Thursday.