Missouri Minute: Officials worry about virus spread amid protests; municipal elections taking place amid surge in absentee ballots

Good morning, MBA readers,

People across Missouri are heading to the polls Tuesday to cast ballots in local elections. One day earlier, it was rallies and marches that brought out thousands of Missourians, as protests of police violence toward African Americans continued in cities across the state. Many areas experienced peaceful demonstrations Monday, but Kansas City and St. Louis witnessed violent altercations between police and protestors. Police used tear gas on crowds in both cities, and four officers were shot early Tuesday in downtown St. Louis. In the midst of these widespread group demonstrations, health officials have expressed concern that the protests could cause spikes in the number of COVID-19 cases, as close proximity for extended amounts of time increases the risk of transmission of the coronavirus. And as the pandemic continues, Gov. Mike Parson has announced significant cuts to education funding to help the government cope with drops in revenue caused by COVID-19.


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Stay alert

Protests continue across state; officers shot in St. Louis
Demonstrations took place Monday in locations including Columbia, Jefferson City, Kansas City, Springfield and multiple parts of the St. Louis area as Missourians protested police treatment of African Americans following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. In O’Fallon, police officers marched with demonstrators. In Kansas City, the mayor and police chief joined a rally, but police and protestors later clashed. In downtown St. Louis, violence broke out after dark, and four police officers were shot early Tuesday. (Associated Press, St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

Officials worry about virus spread amid protests
Health departments across the state are urging protesters to take precautions and maintain social distancing, but officials have expressed concern about the spread of the coronavirus at the large public events. (KCUR)

Municipal elections taking place amid surge in absentee ballots
After a delay due to the pandemic, local elections are taking place across the state. Voters will choose city council and school board members and decide the fate of tax increases and bond issues. Election officials are expecting a lower turnout of physical voters, with many opting for absentee ballots. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

Parson announces $209 million more in budget cuts
Gov. Mike Parson announced additional spending restrictions for the current fiscal year, citing COVID-19 for the budget shortfall. The biggest cuts are $131 million from public schools and $41 million from higher education. These restrictions follow $220 million in earlier withholdings. (Kansas City Star)

Fort Leonard Wood reports COVID-19 cases
The Army training facility reported 70 positive cases of COVID-19. Most of the individuals who tested positive were asymptomatic, and none had been hospitalized. (Columbia Missourian)

St. Louis Aquarium, wheel set to reopen
Two fixtures of the St. Louis Union Station are set to reopen with new guidelines on Monday. Many of Union Station’s other businesses are expected to reopen the same day. (KSDK)

KC convention hotel opens
The $320 million Loews Kansas City hotel opened its doors to the public Monday, two months later than expected due to COVID-19. It is the first convention hotel opened in downtown Kansas City in 30 years. (Kansas City Business Journal)

St. Louis County bars allowed to open June 8
With the city of St. Louis allowing bars to reopen in mid-May, St. Louis County is now following suit. Guidelines will be applied, including social distancing. (St. Louis Business Journal)

Silver Dollar City sets date to reopen
The Branson attraction will open to the general public on June 15, though customers with season passes will be allowed as early as June 13. The park has announced new requirements for entry, including reservations and face masks. (Springfield Business Journal)

Cerner hires new chief technology officer
Jerome Labat has over 30 years of experience in technology and product development, most recently as CTO of Micro Focus International. The North Kansas City-based health care IT company hopes to progress with cloud computing with Labat at the helm of technology operations. (Kansas City Business Journal)

St. Louis film company wins national podcast award
Shifts Films has received a Communicators Award from the Academy of Interactive and Digital Arts for the podcast “Lost Boys of Hannibal,” which tells the story of three boys who disappeared near Hannibal in 1967. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)


Say that again

“If we had equity in Kansas and Missouri, 260 black lives wouldn’t be lost today from the virus.”

That’s researcher Andi Egbert speaking about the unequal distribution of deaths from the coronavirus in white and black communities, KCUR reports. The two states mirror a national trend, highlighted in a study conducted by APM Research Lab, of black communities experiencing significantly higher death rates than white communities from COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. In Missouri, COVID-19 death rates per 100,000 residents are 36.6 for black people and 8.1 for white people. Some have pointed to higher rates of underlying health conditions in people of color as the cause of the trend, but another study concluded that the disparity was caused by factors such as access to health care, unemployment and discrimination.


Go figure

70,000

That’s the number of absentee ballot requests that have been filed in St. Louis County for Tuesday’s election, despite disagreement between officials about whether fear of COVID-19 is a valid excuse to be granted an absentee ballot, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. That total is over four times the number of requests filed the year before in the county, and even exceeds the number requested during the 2016 presidential election. This trend has been seen across the state, including in Boone County, which received over 4,700 requests for absentee ballots, five times more than last year, the Columbia Daily Tribune reports.


Hello, my name is

Uniper Care

This Israeli telehealth startup recently signed a contract with the VA St. Louis Health System, and it’s looking to further expand into the area, the St. Louis Business Journal reports. The company’s technology is tailored to provide seniors with health care, as well as activities to help with loneliness. The platform is designed to allow users to access a range of services, such as health and wellness programs or video chat. The company has been looking at deals with other St. Louis health care services following its participation in a health innovation summit in the area last year.


Word to the wise

Covid campers

That’s a term some are using for recreational vehicles people are buying or renting in order to escape their quarantine and travel during the pandemic, Bloomberg reports. Following a dip in sales when stay-at-home orders were in place and parks were closed, the recreational vehicle business is now booming as people look for more socially distant, safe ways to get out of the house. One RV company in Springfield estimates that sales are up by 20% from last year, KOLR reports.


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


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