Missouri Minute: Power outages hit state amid cold; winter weather disrupts vaccine distribution

Hello, MBA readers,

Frigid temperatures across much of the country are driving increased energy consumption and a shortage of supply, resulting in rolling power outages for people across Missouri. Customers of utilities including Evergy in the Kansas City area and City Utilities in Springfield have been subject to temporary blackouts, and power companies are urging people to conserve their use of electricity. The cold and snow have also disrupted the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, with Gov. Mike Parson announcing the cancellation of mass vaccination events in Missouri this week. That comes as the state reported a vaccination milestone: About 10% of Missourians have received at least their first dose of a coronavirus vaccine. However, with new virus variants emerging, drug manufacturers are creating contingency plans for potential modifications to the vaccine.


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Lawmakers propose waiving state income tax on federal stimulus
A Missouri bill would exempt federal stimulus from being taxed as income. The proposal would apply to the $600 stimulus checks that have been distributed this year and future emergency relief funds. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

Using feral hogs as food nixed over safety concerns
A plan to use feral hog meat to help feed the poor in Missouri has been discontinued after conservation officials cited food safety concerns. (Associated Press)

Three St. Louis accounting firms combine
Pleus & Co. and Dwyer Costello and Knox announced that they will merge into Purk & Associates, a woman-owned accounting and management advisory firm. The merger is expected to boost revenues by two-thirds, to $5 million this year. (St. Louis Business Journal)

Government Accountability Office orders delay in rollout of Cerner system 
The federal auditor told the Department of Veterans Affairs to halt the implementation of a $16 billion electronic health records system provided by North Kansas City-based Cerner, in an effort to address potential problems. (Kansas City Business Journal)

Missouri has withheld nearly $79 million in stimulus money over child support
The federal CARES Act allows states to block coronavirus stimulus checks to people who owe child support. Between May 2020 and January 2021, the state captured nearly $78.8 million from about 61,000 individuals. (Missourinet)

Midtown St. Louis redevelopment continues despite pandemic 
Businesses have already moved into spaces at City Foundry, which is slated to open midyear. The project’s first phase, which includes retail and office space, cost more than $220 million. (St. Louis Public Radio)

A-B InBev takes Constellation to court over Corona brand name
Beverage company Anheuser-Busch InBev sued Constellation Brands for using the Corona brand name for its alcoholic seltzer drink. (Reuters)


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Customers of utility companies under the umbrella of the Southwest Power Pool were subject to rolling blackouts Monday afternoon and again early Tuesday in parts of Missouri and multiple other states, The Kansas City Star reports. The power consortium, which supplies energy to more than a dozen states in the central U.S., faced a shortage of natural gas amid unusually high demand due to frigid temperatures across a large swath of the country. The power grid was not alone in facing stress from the bitter cold and snow. Highway crews worked to clear roads, but major thoroughfares across the state remained covered or partly covered as of early Tuesday, and public transit was disrupted in parts of the state. Many schools either canceled classes or opted for online instruction. And some retailers shuttered early on Monday, with St. Louis supermarket chain Schnucks closing to allow employees to go home early, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.


Go figure

10%

According to the state health department, 10% of Missourians have received at least one shot of a COVID-19 vaccine, the Associated Press reports. Nearly 874,000 doses have been distributed, with almost 240,000 people having received both shots. However, with new variants of the virus emerging, drugmakers are evaluating potential modifications to the vaccine to combat new strains. Using the flu vaccine as a model, researchers are formulating experimental vaccines in case one becomes necessary. Coronavirus variants are also raising the question of when updated vaccines would be rolled out. Manufacturers have decided that if vaccinated people begin being hospitalized for infections involving new strains, it is time to shift to a modified vaccine.


Say that again

“If you had asked me maybe just even five years ago if there would have been a blood test for Alzheimer’s, I would have been skeptical.”

That’s Dr. Howard Fillit, founding executive director and chief science officer of the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation, speaking about the progress of the company C2N Diagnostics in developing a test for Alzheimer’s disease, the St. Louis Business Journal reports. The St. Louis-based company launched a blood test for the degenerative brain disease in October, and C2N now plans to grow its footprint in the St. Louis area and beyond. The foundation has donated a total of $2.8 million to the company’s research, and C2N has been working on development of the test since 2007. In December, it received clearance for commercial distribution of the blood test in the European Union.


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