Missouri Minute: Unions push for safety measures; workers ration personal protective equipment

Good morning, MBA readers,

Confirmed COVID-19 cases in Missouri climbed past 900 on Sunday, and worry about the availability of protective equipment is mounting among health care workers in the state. But amid that growing concern, various people, groups and businesses have stepped in to help. In the St. Louis area, trade groups are pooling their reserve protective equipment to donate to hospitals. In Kansas City, multiple companies have teamed up to design — and share instructions for replicating — protective face shields. Meanwhile, another business in the area is opening up access to its clinical decision-making app, in an effort to aid health care workers fighting the pandemic.


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Unions push for safety measures at ‘essential’ plants
Plants that manufacture defense equipment, like Boeing and Olin facilities in the St. Louis area, are considered “essential” businesses, so employees are still expected to show up to work throughout the worsening COVID-19 pandemic. Union representatives are pushing for additional safety measures. (St. Louis Public Radio)

Hospital workers ration personal protective equipment amid national shortages
Some hospital workers across the St. Louis say they are “terrified” as the area confronts shortages of masks used for protection against the COVID-19 virus. Some hospitals are telling workers to re-wear single-use masks in an effort to preserve materials. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

Large KC-area hotels closed due to virus
Kansas City’s Sheraton Hotel at Crown Center temporarily closed Friday due to the coronavirus, joining a growing list of area hotel closures. The city’s Loews convention hotel, initially scheduled to debut Thursday, has delayed its grand opening. (Kansas City Star)

St. Louis tourism agency expects big budget hit, layoffs
The region’s tourism agency, Explore St. Louis, has seen a sharp decline in revenues due to decreased money from hotel taxes, forcing it to lay off four marketing employees and furlough another 324 part-time staffers. (St. Louis Business Journal)

Build-A-Bear closes stores, furloughs 90% of workforce
The St. Louis-based company has temporarily closed all its locations, along with an Ohio warehouse, and furloughed the vast majority of its staff through at least April 2. Shares of the company’s stock closed at $1.49 on Friday, down from nearly $5.50 in January. (St. Louis Business Journal)

Audit finds concern with state’s method of deciding Medicaid eligibility
State Auditor Nicole Galloway’s audit of how Missouri vets Medicaid eligibility said the system was prone to errors and removed people from the program incorrectly. (St. Louis Public Radio)

Game cancellations to cost MLB millions
If half the Major League Baseball season is canceled, the league’s 30 teams will lose $2.5 billion in ticket sales, with the Kansas City Royals losing around $53 million, according to a study by TicketIQ. (Kansas City Business Journal)

Lawsuits loom over commercial real estate leases
Landlords and commercial tenants will soon begin legal battles centered around a key question, according to St. Louis lawyers: Is the coronavirus an act of God? (St. Louis Business Journal)

Trade groups ask workers to donate protective gear to hospitals
St. Louis-area trade groups are asking contractors like carpenters, mechanics and construction workers to donate their reserves of N95 masks and other personal protective equipment to medical workers in need as the area’s hospitals struggle with shortages. (St. Louis Public Radio)

Army Corps seeking sites for makeshift hospitals in St. Louis
The Army Corps of Engineers is reaching out to general contractors across the area to pinpoint unused buildings like dorms and arenas that could be transformed into makeshift hospitals in case of a facility-straining surge in COVID-19 patients. (St. Louis Business Journal)

Downtown St. Louis building sells for $35 million
Peabody Plaza has been sold to New York-based real estate investment management company Briar Meads Capital. (St. Louis Business Journal)

Pandemic brings frozen pizza heyday
Frozen pizza is helping keep some St. Louis restaurants afloat. When Gioia’s Deli on the Hill started making frozen pizza available for online ordering, it sold 160 in two hours, prompting owner Alex Donley to call it “payroll pizza.” (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

KC firms develop and donate protective gear
Dimensional Innovations, InStore Design Display and the University of Kansas’ Center for Design Research teamed up to create a medical face shield for health care workers, placing an open-source design and an instructional video online for anyone’s use and financing a donation of 10,000 to the KU Health System. (Kansas City Business Journal)

Ozarks food banks prepare for demand spike with unemployment increase
Southwest Missouri food pantries anticipate demand for 1 million additional meals over the next 90 days. (Springfield News-Leader)

COVID-19 could halt recreational marijuana campaign
Organizers of an effort to get recreational marijuana on Missouri’s November ballot said its future is unclear. The measure would need 160,000 signatures by May to land on the ballot, but backers say gathering signatures has become “virtually impossible” due to the response to COVID-19. (Springfield News-Leader)

St. Louis launches urban ag program near Forest Park
The city has launched a pilot program allowing residents of a ward near Forest Park to buy vacant land for two-thirds or less of market value to raise crops or animals. Buyers will have to prove they have growing experience and previous engagement with the community to participate in the program organized by the Missouri Coalition for the Environment. (St. Louis Public Radio)


Say that again

“I’m not looking for a profit. I want to keep things rolling for my employees.”

That’s Christina’s Produce owner Ben Wisdom explaining why he is keeping his Kansas City grocery business open despite a drastic drop in sales due to the coronavirus pandemic, The Kansas City Star reports. Housed in the typically crowded City Market, Christina’s Produce has seen its weekday sales dip as much as 40% since Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas ordered people to stay home and closed all but essential businesses. Wisdom closed his other business, Burrito Bros, as soon as the order was issued, but he intends to keep the grocery business open for his employees. For the time being, Wisdom said, he is able to keep the doors open, but he could be in trouble if sales drop as far as 70% to 80%.


Go figure

$4.5 million

That’s how much in daily wages are at risk in the St. Louis area due to the sweeping closure of local bars and dine-in eateries, the St. Louis Business Journal reports. Restaurants in the St. Louis area support roughly $1.5 billion in annual payroll for 98,000 employees, according to the most recent federal payroll data. Bars and breweries in the region collectively employ over 5,200 people and pay roughly $142 million in annual payroll.


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That’s the latest state update on the spread of COVID-19 in Missouri as of Sunday. St. Louis County reported the most cases, with 336, according to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. A week ago, the state had around 100 confirmed cases.


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Redivus Health

This Kansas City-area startup founded by doctors is expanding access to its clinical decision-making app in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Kansas City Business Journal reports. Redivus offers health care workers guides for handling stroke, sepsis and cardiac arrest cases in an effort to reduce medical errors. The portion of the app covering cardiac arrest is now available to health care workers for free for at least 90 days, as cardiac arrests become more common among coronavirus patients, Redivus co-founder and CEO Jeff Dunn said. The company is looking for a strategic partner to help release a module tailored for COVID-19.


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


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