Missouri Minute: KC officials consider mask mandate; Branson COVID-19 cases rise

Good morning, MBA readers,

“We have to do more.” That’s the message from Kansas City Health Director Rex Archer as the city sees a record uptick of COVID-19 cases and officials consider requiring people to wear face masks in public places. The Kansas City metro area reported 227 new cases on Thursday. Other cities in Missouri, including Joplin and Springfield, have also discussed introducing mask mandates, but neither city has adopted such a measure yet. In Branson, summer tourists have poured into town and, in many cases, are not practicing strict social distancing or wearing face masks. The vacation destination has seen confirmed cases of COVID-19 jump from 15 to 40 in less than two weeks. In Branson, the message from local health officials is much as the same as it is 200 miles away in Kansas City. Said Taney County Health Director Lisa Marshall this week in an email announcing new COVID-19 cases: “Taney County Health department is asking that everyone wear a face covering or mask.”


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Unemployment claims trend down but remain high
Initial claims in Missouri dropped last week for the 10th week in a row, to about 17,000. That’s down 8% from the week before but well above pre-pandemic levels. The total number of Missourians approved for ongoing unemployment was about 208,000 for the week ended June 13, down 4.8%. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

Branson COVID-19 cases rise amid concern over lack of masks
The tourist destination has less than 12,000 residents, but the county saw a jump in cases from 15 to 40 in less than two weeks. Amid widespread reports of visitors and residents not wearing masks, local officials are urging precautions. (Kansas City Star)

Macy’s to cut 3,900 jobs to counter COVID-19 losses
The retailer, which lists 11 stores in Missouri, on Thursday announced nationwide cuts to corporate and managerial positions. (Reuters)

Gaming regulators allow one landlord for all St. Louis casinos
The commission approved the sale of Lumière Place in downtown St. Louis to a subsidiary of Pennsylvania-based Gaming and Leisure Properties Inc. Now GLPI owns the real estate of every casino in the area. Eldorado Resorts will continue to own and run the casino. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

Motorists face unusually long lines at DMV
As DMV locations across the state reopen, offices face a backlog of motorists. Social distancing measures, sanitation procedures and a faulty online appointment system have contributed to the wait times. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

T-Mobile resists job targets, 5G goals tied to Sprint merger
T-Mobile is petitioning California regulators to revise an agreement that preceded the state’s approval of the wireless carrier’s merger with Sprint. T-Mobile called a requirement that it add 1,000 employees in California “infeasible.” (Fierce Wireless)

Developer plans new industrial park in St. Louis area 
TriStar Cos. announced plans for a 200-acre industrial development in O’Fallon, Illinois. The complex will be St. Clair County’s first industrial park, designed to accommodate buildings from 25,000 square feet to 710,000 square feet. (St. Louis Business Journal)

Bid for former ham plant in Pacific tops $1.2 million
Double G Brands, which sold hams throughout the Midwest, shut down in January and filed bankruptcy this month.​ Naked Foods has put in the initial offer for the bankrupt company’s assets. (St. Louis Business Journal)

FCC awards $767,000 to Burrell Behavioral Health 
The Federal Communications Commission COVID-19 Telehealth Program will provide funding for the company’s virtual care services in central and southwest Missouri. (Springfield Business Journal)


Say that again

“When the pandemic happened, we found ourselves in an adjacent field. We were already interested in the ecology and evolution of infectious disease, so we were just trying to find some way to contribute.”

That’s Jeff Smith, a data scientist and researcher in St. Louis who had to pivot his research when the COVID-19 pandemic began. Smith, who specializes in the evolution of interaction among bacteria, was compelled to abandon his research when the the University of Missouri-St. Louis campus closed. He and his research partner, UMSL professor Fredrik Inglis, are now analyzing data to understand how the coronavirus is spreading in the St. Louis region. Theirs is one of several University of Missouri System research teams that have shifted to coronavirus-related projects since the pandemic’s outbreak. Researchers have adopted new projects either in response to community needs or due to lack of lab access.


Go figure

21,727

That is the number of Black residents that the city of St. Louis has lost in the past decade, according to U.S. Census Bureau data. As of July 2019, Black residents totaled 136,167, making up 45.3% of the city’s population. While the Black population has declined, the white population has slowly edged upward, with white residents comprising 48.1% of the total population in 2019, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. The drop in the Black population can be attributed to “disinvestment” and deteriorating housing conditions in predominantly Black neighborhoods, said Jefferey Boyd, chairman of the St. Louis Board of Aldermen’s African American caucus. New housing hitting the market in recent years has typically cost $300,000 or more, Boyd said, and isn’t affordable for many Black St. Louisans.


Send tweet


Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas’ tweet comes as the city considers a mask mandate for residents as COVID-19 cases continue to spike, The Kansas City Star reports. The metro area reported 227 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, a record increase for the second day in a row. Residents may be required to wear face masks in public places to limit the spread of the coronavirus. Officials in cities such as Joplin and Springfield also have discussed and voted on similar requirements, the Associated Press reports. Since Missouri Gov. Mike Parson reopened the state for business on June 16, there has been a 9.5% statewide increase in coronavirus cases, according to state health officials. Kansas City Health Director Rex Archer said the face mask requirement can “slow the spread of the virus a lot.”


Hello, my name is

Ronawk

That’s the name of a health technology startup in Olathe, Kansas, that has created a product called Tissue Blocks, or T-Blocks. The T-Blocks are designed to facilitate mass-production of stem cells from a single donor. The startup began selling T-Blocks to researchers in April, Startland News reports. Ronawk initially received proof-of-concept funds from Digital Sandbox KC and has recently secured an undisclosed funding round. The funding has helped the company hire employees and buy necessary research equipment, according to A.J. Mellott, Ronawk’s president and co-founder.


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


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