Missouri Minute: Hospitals alter operations as virus response; St. Louis newspapers stop printing

Good morning, MBA readers,

As the COVID-19 pandemic worsens, more Americans are being ordered to stay at home, and entire states are being put on lockdown, with residents only allowed to leave for essentials. While some organizations, such as the Missouri State Medical Association, are pressuring Gov. Mike Parson to issue a statewide shelter-in-place order that would effectively shut down local businesses, the governor has resisted the move. Parson says he is forgoing a statewide lockdown because of the adverse impact it will have on rural businesses, which will have a hard time recovering if they’re forced to close.

Some forecasts suggest the economy will take a record hit as the result of the virus, and not just in rural areas. IHS Markit anticipates a 13% contraction of the U.S. economy in the second quarter — higher than the worst quarter of the Great Recession, when the economy contracted 8.4%. The largest quarterly contraction in modern history was 10% in 1958.

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Fed announces all-in debt purchasing plan
The Federal Reserve Bank will buy as many U.S. Treasury bonds and mortgage-backed securities as needed, the central bank signaled Monday, in an unprecedented move to avert an economic depression. The maneuvers go further than the Fed’s response to the 2008 financial crisis. (Washington Post)

Missouri COVID cases surpass 200
St. Louis County announced Monday evening that it now has 90 cases of COVID-19, bringing Missouri’s official total to 211 positive cases — roughly double the 106 cases confirmed Sunday night. (KSDK)

Missouri hospitals restrict visitors, operations amid pandemic
Major health systems in Kansas City, St. Louis and Columbia have restricted most or all visitations, except in special circumstances. Hospitals are also freeing up space by allowing doctors to talk to patients virtually and canceling elective surgeries. (Kansas City Star, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Columbia Missourian)

CVS announces nationwide hiring surge
The drugstore chain said Monday that it will hire 50,000 new employees across the U.S. in response to an increase in patients and customers. CVS has 142 stores in Missouri, according to its website. (Reuters)

Dean Foods drops DFA as lead bidder in bankruptcy auction
Dallas-based Dean Foods, the nation’s largest milk processor, has dropped Kansas City’s Dairy Farmers of America as lead bidder in its bankruptcy auction after resistance from creditors and federal regulators. DFA, which previously offered to buy 44 of Dean Foods’ processing plants for $425 million, will remain in the bidding but without stalking horse bidder status. (FoodDive)

$500 million Chesterfield development planned
Developer Jeff Tegethoff has secured 80 acres in the St. Louis suburb with plans for a mixed-use project estimated to be worth $500 million at completion. The property would be divided into nine parcels for office space, retail and luxury housing that could include townhomes and condominiums. (St. Louis Business Journal)

State expects no medical marijuana delays as patient cards near 40,000
The Missouri Department of Health and Human Services said Monday that it anticipates no delays to the rollout of medical marijuana businesses in the state despite the COVID-19 pandemic. State regulators have approved almost 40,000 patient cards. (Springfield News-Leader)

Packaging plant to close, laying off 105 near St. Louis
Amcor Rigid Packaging USA has announced plans to close a plant in Hazelwood that makes plastic containers for food and household products. The company plans to complete laying off all 105 local workers by Aug. 31 and shift production elsewhere. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

St. Charles hotel suspends operations
An Embassy Suites by Hilton in St. Charles has temporarily closed, citing the coronavirus pandemic. It marks the first reported hotel closure in the St. Louis area. The hotel hopes to reopen April 1. (St. Louis Business Journal)

Lucas calls for small business relief fund in KC budget
Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas wants to create a $500,000 emergency relief fund for local businesses as part of the city’s fiscal year 2021 budget. If approved, the fund would likely provide grants of around $10,000 to keep local businesses afloat on thin margins.(Kansas City Business Journal)

Latest deal grows Perficient’s global footprint
The St. Louis-based IT services and consulting firm has acquired Catalyst Networks, a digital consultancy near Atlanta, and its European affiliate. Terms were not disclosed. The acquisition, Perficient’s second of the year, boosts the company’s headcount by 80. (St. Louis Business Journal)

Group shelves bid to take over St. Louis-area radio stations
The nonprofit Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council has pulled its offer to temporarily take over four radio stations in St. Louis and lease them back to their owner, Entertainment Media Trust. EMT is expected to be taken off the air by the end of March, after an administrative judge dismissed a case that would have renewed EMT’s station licenses. (Inside Radio)

Two more KC area shopping centers close
Legends Outlets Kansas City announced it will close for at least 30 days starting Tuesday. Oak Park Mall closed Monday night “until further notice.” Other Kansas City-area shopping destinations continue operating. Zona Rosa said it will remain open and monitor reports of the pandemic. The Country Club Plaza has narrowed its shopping hours and closed “numerous shops.” (Kansas City Business Journal)

MSU issues additional paid leave as most employees work from home
Missouri State University President Clif Smart announced Monday that the school will provide extra paid time off for employees who are sick or taking care of children. Between 70% and 80% of the school’s workforce will transition to working from home for the remainder of the school year. (Springfield-News Leader)

St. Louis grocers install plexiglass at checkout
Schnucks and Dierbergs stores are installing temporary plexiglass shields at checkout lanes to reduce the spread of COVID-19 as more people rush to buy groceries. Save A Lot said it is mulling similar measures. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

Virtual panel addresses employer concerns in Columbia
The Columbia Chamber of Commerce hosted a virtual panel of city officials Monday to address concerns of both residents and local employers stemming from the COVID-19 outbreak and subsequent shutdowns. Columbia City Manager John Glascock said the city has stopped utility shutoffs and fees, and is also considering extending business license expiration dates. (Columbia Missourian)

KC-area firm ramps up production of sanitizer ingredient
To meet a surge in demand, Atchison, Kansas-based distillery MGP Ingredients will boost production of industrial alcohol used in hand sanitizer. When it was founded in 1941, MGP produced industrial alcohol for World War II efforts. These days, MGP makes spirits by contract for brands like Seagram’s and Bulleit. (Kansas City Business Journal)

Say that again

“The first goal during the NPAP is to intentionally reduce (reduce!) economic activity in order to meet public health objectives.”

That’s James Bullard, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, calling for a National Pandemic Adjustment Period, or NPAP, over the next three months to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. Bullard’s proposed slowdown would require special policies to aid families suffering from unemployment over the course of the pandemic. He wouldn’t call it a recession, Bullard said, because it would be intentional, and a way to “keep everybody whole” despite the suspension of activities typical of an economy functioning at full-throttle.

Go figure

1 in 4

That’s about how many Americans are being asked to stay home as the nation grapples with the coronavirus pandemic that is poised to worsen in the next few weeks, Reuters reports. To keep laid-off workers — many of whom do not have paid sick leave — afloat, lawmakers and the Trump administration are looking to make a deal to pump some $1.6 trillion into the economy. Negotiators emerged from meetings late Monday night saying they expected to reach an agreement Tuesday morning, the Wall Street Journal reports.

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The advocacy group Healthcare for Missouri said Monday that it will be able to submit the required number of signatures by early May to put a proposal for expanding Medicaid on the state’s November ballot. That comes despite the group also announcing Monday that it is suspending events due to the coronavirus outbreak. Healthcare for Missouri wants to give Medicaid access in the state to people who make up to 138% of the federal poverty level.

Hello, my name is

Webster-Kirkwood Times Inc.

The company, which publishes three weekly newspapers in the St. Louis area, will stop printing paper editions at the end of the month, the St. Louis Business Journal reports. Two of the three publications — the South County Times and the West End Word — will cease publication altogether, while the Webster-Kirkwood Times will maintain an online edition at least through April. The Webster Groves-based company employs around 40 people and became the second local publication in recent days to lay off staff amid the worsening COVID-19 pandemic. The Riverfront Times laid off most of its staff last week and said it will stop printing papers.

It’s been a pleasure doing business with you this morning.


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