Missouri Minute: State navigates primary amid pandemic; MSTS sold to New York firm

Good morning, MBA readers,

On Election Day in Missouri, voters are determining candidates for five statewide offices, including governor, and deciding on an amendment that would expand Medicaid eligibility to Missourians making up to 138% of the federal poverty level. Though a large number of voters have requested mail-in or absentee ballots due to the coronavirus, many will still go to the polls. Due to the pandemic, polling places are taking extra precautions. Meanwhile, as universities across the state look to start the fall semester this month, a new study says schools with 5,000 students would need to conduct COVID-19 tests every two days to effectively prevent the spread of the coronavirus. For many universities planning returns to in-person instruction, such a regimen is not feasible. At Washington University in St. Louis, where student housing will be limited to 65% of capacity, some are expecting ripple effects in the local real estate market, with increased student demand for off-campus housing potentially straining local supply.


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Missouri navigates primary amid pandemic
Polling places in St. Louis and Kansas City will be among those asking that voters wear masks. Plexiglass will shield voters and polling place workers, and social distancing is encouraged. Election officials across the state report a marked increase in requests for mail-in and absentee ballots. (Kansas City StarSt. Louis Post-Dispatch)

Study suggests colleges should conduct COVID-19 tests every two days
A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association says that a university with 5,000 students would need to test students every two days in order to contain the coronavirus and prevent an outbreak. That would require 195,000 tests that can cost $10 to $50 apiece. For many universities, such a plan is not feasible. (Kansas City Star)

Washington University’s reopening plan ripples through area housing market
The St. Louis school’s amended fall housing plan limits the number of students allowed to live on campus to 65% of capacity. That could strain the local housing market, which is not used to so many students living off campus. (St. Louis Business Journal)

MSTS sold to New York firm for $350 million
The Overland Park, Kansas-based financial services company will be sold to Corsair Capital, a New York private equity firm. MSTS employs over 400 people in the Kansas City area. (Kansas City Business Journal)

Mystery seeds from China identified
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has identified some of the mystery seed packets mailed from China as being various vegetables, herbs and flowers. Unsolicited packages have been reported in 22 states, including Missouri. Officials are still directing recipients not to plant the seeds, as they could attract unwanted pests or be an invasive species. (Kansas City Star)

As Sprint brand is phased out, T-Mobile CEO recommits to KC
As stores and customers are transitioned to coverage under the T-Mobile network following the wireless carrier’s merger with Overland Park, Kansas-based Sprint, T-Mobile’s CEO again pledged to continue Sprint’s legacy by being a major employer in the Kansas City area. (Kansas City Star)

LaborChart forms partnership with Portland software firm
LaborChart, a Kansas City-area company that specializes in workforce management software, has formed a partnership with Viewpoint, an Oregon-based construction accounting company. (Kansas City Business Journal)


Show me

Voters are deciding whether Missouri will become the 38th state, plus Washington, D.C., to expand access to Medicaid, the health insurance program for low-income people and individuals with disabilities. The measure would provide health insurance to an estimated 230,000 people, covering many Missourians whose currently make too much money to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to afford private insurance. As expansion advocates and opponents try to forecast what increased access to Medicaid would mean for Missouri, other states that have approved expansion offer some ideas.


Say that again

“I could probably get through to the President of the United States faster than I could get a straight answer out of anybody at the (Department of Corrections) or the prison where my son is.”

That’s Susan Strauss, whose son is incarcerated in Missouri, speaking about her difficulties getting responses to questions regarding her son’s health and treatment. The coronavirus has made its way into some Missouri prisons, infecting both inmates and staff. Many inmates have questions about their treatment that remain unanswered by the prison’s medical staff, causing them to turn to their families to obtain the answers. Some families say they encounter vague answers and a lack of transparency when they ask about how their loved ones would be cared for if they contracted the virus or how they are being kept safe from the virus. State corrections officials say communicating with families has become more of a priority in recent years, but that attending to inmates’ medical needs takes precedence over communicating with family members.


Go figure

31%

That is how much the price of ground chuck has increased since January, leaving some consumers with sticker shock when they visit the supermarket, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. Additionally, the price of sirloin steak has risen by 23% during the same period of time. The rise in prices is due to many slaughterhouses being forced to close during the pandemic, while consumers continued to purchase beef products. However, the rising price of beef in the supermarket does not reflect the low price at which farmers are selling their cattle. Since January, cattle prices have declined from 45 cents to 31 cents of the average dollar spent on beef at retail. While the number of processing plants decreased for a time, the number of cattle needing to be sold did not, creating a surplus and driving prices down.


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Astronaut Bob Behnken, a native of St. Ann and graduate of Washington University in St. Louis, has returned to Earth after spending 62 days at the International Space Station, Missourinet reports. Behnken and Doug Hurley made up the two-person crew as SpaceX became the first private company to send astronauts into space. On Sunday, they arrived back on the planet with the first water landing since the 1975 Apollo mission. Behnken’s father remarked that the return was “no big deal” as he was confident that the team of engineers had worked out every detail of the trip, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. Behnken’s dad did, however, express happiness that his son had returned safe and sound.


Hello, my name is

Firebrand Ventures II

That’s the new name that has been adopted by venture capital firms Firebrand Ventures and Blue Note Ventures following their merger, the Kansas City Business Journal reports. In a blog post, Blue Note founder Chris Marks cited similar outlooks by both firms as a reason his Colorado-based firm was combining with Kansas City-based Firebrand. The merger closed earlier this year, but the firms decided postpone their official announcement until last week.


Word to the wise

Pandemic Pods

This term refers to small groups of children, usually numbering fewer than 10, that meet in a private residence to be taught by a hired teacher or a parent, the New York Times reports. This is one alternative measure to traditional in-person classes that is being considered by parents who still wish for their children to have structured learning and socialization without the risk of coronavirus exposure that comes with attending a school full of students. Also known as learning pods, these groups allow flexibility for working parents, who might otherwise have to miss work if in-person classes are canceled. The pods have gained interest across the country as the number of confirmed cases continues to rise, The Kansas City Star reports.


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


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