Missouri Minute: COVID-19 cases rise in state; casino workers advance tobacco lawsuit

Hello, MBA readers,

For the fifth decade in a row, the heart of the country is in Missouri — this time in aptly named Hartville, an Ozarks town home to about 600 people. The country’s population center is determined every 10 years by the Census Bureau. In 2020, it shifted 11.8 miles to the southwest, putting it about 15 miles away from Hartville. The southern pull resulted from population growth in Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas. In an unwelcome statistical shift of a different sort, Missouri has seen its seven-day average for COVID-19 cases spike 45% in the last two weeks, to more than 1,400 on Wednesday. As winter approaches, state health officials are warning of a spike in cases based on the most recent wastewater test results. An extended downward trend in case counts ended in late October, and figures have shown an increase starting in November that could last through the holidays. In national health news, new numbers paint a grim picture for the year in overdose deaths. From May 2020 to April 2021, more than 100,000 Americans are estimated to have died from overdoses, the highest 12-month figure ever. Experts attribute the spike to both the pandemic’s socially isolating effects and a readily available drug supply.

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Additional Afghan refugees arrive in St. LouisBefore this week, around 125 refugees had been resettled in the area. Now, agencies expect 50 to 100 refugees to arrive each week through year’s end. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)Casino workers advance lawsuit over tobacco surchargeAbout 1,500 Penn National Gaming employees in Missouri and other states are moving forward with a class-action suit claiming their pay was reduced because they smoke. (KCUR)Pro-Parson political action committee finedThe Missouri Ethics Commission said the Uniting Missouri Pac, created to advocate for Gov. Mike Parson, took $150,000 in illegal donations from an out-of-state group. (Missouri Independent)COVID-19 cases rise in Missouri, reversing downward trendThe seven-day average for new cases eclipsed 1,400 on Wednesday, a 45% increase over Oct. 31. Cooler temperatures and impending holiday gatherings lead officials to believe that cases will continue to rise. (Missouri Independent)US overdose deaths top 100,000 in one yearFederal health officials said the death toll between May 2020 and April 2021 is the highest ever for a 12-month span, and many deaths are attributable to fentanyl overdoses. (Associated Press)Plastomics raises $7.1 million in Series A roundThe St. Louis-based startup plans to use the funds to advance its crop improvement technology. Local funder Lewis & Clark AgriFood led the round. (St. Louis Business Journal)

Say that again

“When I go around, and a lot of people know I know about (Medicaid) expansion, people say ‘Has that started yet?'”That’s Timothy McBride, a health economist at Washington University in St. Louis. Despite Missouri expanding access to its Medicaid program earlier this year, few Missourians have taken advantage of the expanded eligibility, KCUR reports. The state has done little to spread the word, even compared to other Republican-led states, despite estimates that higher enrollment in the program would save the state money in the long run. “We’re always a little different from any other state,” McBride said. “We may just be a little slower on this.”

Go figure

11.8 milesThat’s how far to the southwest the U.S. population center shifted since it was last calculated in 2010, though it remained in Missouri — where it has been since the 1980 census. According to the Associated Press, the new heart of the U.S. falls, fittingly, near Hartville, Missouri — a town of about 600 in the Ozarks. “This small town represents what’s great about America still,” said Melvin Moon, a member of Hartville’s city council. “People are neighbors, people take time for each other and they help each other.”

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Kansas City International Airport offers more service to Cancun, Mexico, now than it did prior to the pandemic, according to the Kansas City Business Journal. American Airlines and Frontier Airlines have been offering flights to the Caribbean resort city, and with the addition of Southwest Airlines service on Saturday, the airport will have 108 flights and 21,000 seats scheduled from November to April. It’s a blip of good news for KCI, as staffing shortages and canceled flights continue to plague the airline industry.

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Social Venture StudioThis program power ed by LaunchKC will seek to provide entrepreneurs with alternative, sustainable methods of funding, while also addressing social and racial inequities in the community, according to Startland News. The program, in coordination with the Keystone Innovation District, hopes to bring entrepreneurs in the social venture realm to Kansas City in the long term. “Why not call this an accelerator? Why not call this an incubator?” said Kevin McGinnis, president and CEO of Keystone Community Corporation. “A studio gives us the flexibility to not just focus on acceleration, but to focus on the right structure and have the flexibility to provide the right support.”

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