Missouri Minute: Federal workers face new vaccination rules; Spire fights pipeline closure

Hello, MBA readers,

In the most sweeping workplace COVID-19 vaccination push yet, President Joe Biden announced Thursday that federal employees must either get vaccinated or submit to frequent COVID-19 tests and other measures. There were more than 57,000 federal employees in Missouri as of June, and even more could be affected by the new requirement with the inclusion of contractors. Biden also nudged states to offer $100 incentives for each new vaccine recipient, using federal funds from the American Rescue Plan. The idea comes about as about 60% of Americans are fully vaccinated and many states are looking for ways to incentivize vaccination. As the pandemic drags on and a new school term approaches, educational institutions are starting to reveal plans for reducing the spread of the virus. Students and employees in the University of Missouri System learned Thursday that masks would once again be required of them in most indoor settings, regardless of whether they are vaccinated. In energy news, the largest natural gas utility in the state is stirring up concerns about a different kind of crisis. Spire is arguing that its 65-mile STL Pipeline, currently under scrutiny by federal regulators, is essential to the well-being of St. Louis residents in the winter months. Without the pipeline, the utility argues, the city risks widespread losses of service similar to those seen in places like Texas this winter.


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Stay alert

Federal workers face new vaccination rules
President Joe Biden announced that government employees must be vaccinated against COVID-19 or face mandatory masking, weekly testing, distancing requirements and other new rules. The federal government directly employs about 4 million people, including some 57,000 in Missouri. (Associated Press)

US economy grows 6.5% in second quarter
Gross domestic product grew at an annualized rate of 6.5% from April through June. That fell short of many economists’ expectations of 8% growth or better, but it helped the U.S. economy exceed its pre-pandemic size. (Associated Press)

Jobless claims drop for US, Missouri
Initial unemployment claims fell by 24,000 to 400,000 nationally, bringing the four-week average to about 395,000. Missouri claims declined by nearly half to about 6,400 for the week and an average of 7,000 over the last four. (Associated Press)

Scott Fitzpatrick to run for Missouri auditor
Fitzpatrick, a Republican, was appointed as state treasurer in 2018 and re-elected to the office last year. Auditor Nicole Galloway, a Democrat, previously announced she will not seek re-election in 2022. (Missouri Independent)

Jay Nixon will not run for US Senate
After considerable external speculation, the former Missouri governor will not seek the Democratic nomination for the seat being vacated by Sen. Roy Blunt. (Missouri Independent)

AT&T tower sale is nixed
The sale of the largest office tower in St. Louis has fallen through, and brokers say it could be years before the vacant downtown building is redeveloped. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

Bayer expects Roundup claims could rise by $4.5 billion
The company, which acquired the weedkiller in its purchase of Creve Coeur-based Monsanto, will set aside an additional $4.5 billion to cover claims alleging Roundup causes cancer. (Reuters)

O’Reilly co-president to step down
Jeff Shaw, O’Reilly Automotive’s co-president and chief operating officer, will retire early next year after more than 33 years with the Springfield-based auto parts retailer. (Springfield Business Journal)

Gaming machine company sues southwest Missouri prosecutor
Wildwood-based Torch Electronics, which operates digital gambling machines across the state, filed a lawsuit attempting to stop the Greene County prosecutor’s investigative subpoena into its operations. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

Maryland Heights office building sold for $4.2 million
The nearly empty, 82,000-square-foot office building sold to Creve Coeur-based Bamboo Equity Partners. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)


Say that again

“If you take away the mask mandate, people are scared to go out because there’s not a mask mandate. If you put a mandate in place, people don’t want to shop because they don’t want to wear a mask.”

That’s Kristin Held, owner of Sweet Boutique, a gift shop in Clayton, describing the mask mandate paradox challenging businesses as St. Louis’ face covering requirement returns. According to St. Louis Public Radio, many business owners feel like they’re in a lose-lose situation in which they are bound to lose customers no matter what they do. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that some St. Louis restaurants are asking that customers only dine inside if they are vaccinated; otherwise: enjoy the patio. Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt filed suit against the city of St. Louis and St. Louis County for their mandates. Schmitt said he plans to do the same against Kansas City, which has a mask order starting Monday.


Go figure

133,000

That’s how many customers Spire claims could have lost service in last February’s cold temperatures without its STL Pipeline, the Missouri Independent reports. The largest natural gas utility in the state is facing a possible shutdown of the pipeline, which stretches 65 miles from Illinois to Missouri, as federal regulators review its approval. Without the pipeline, the utility argues, St. Louis residents could be looking down the barrel of a very tough winter with challenges akin to the losses of service in Kansas City and Texas earlier this year.


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Masks will be required of University of Missouri System students and faculty in most indoor settings at the start of the fall semester, regardless of vaccination status, the UM System announced Thursday. The mandate takes effect Aug. 2 and extends to all of the system’s institutions, which have a combined enrollment of about 70,000, The Kansas City Star reports. The mandate is set until Sept. 15, at which point officials will reassess the requirement. Indoor settings that call for a face covering include classrooms and any other location where proper social distancing isn’t possible. Thursday’s announcement also mentioned a new vaccine incentive from the university: Those who upload their vaccination documentation through the school’s portal have the opportunity to win tuition discounts, dinner with coaches of athletic teams or free parking.


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


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