Parson discusses schools, education during pandemic

Gov. Mike Parson discusses the impact of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on Missouri schools Tuesday, March 24.

JEFFERSON CITY – In Wednesday’s, April 8, COVID-19 briefing, Gov. Mike Parson announced that Missouri is moving forward with its first alternate care site to assist hospitals in the St. Louis region treating an increased number of COVID-19 patients.

After extensive review by Missouri’s Alternate Care Site Working Group, a hotel in Florissant is currently being converted into the care facility and could be utilized as early as next week if necessary.

“We continue to communicate with medical experts and hospitals across the state, review the data and keep track of bed space and equipment. Right now, Missouri is in a good place,” Parson said. “However, I want to assure you that we do have a plan in place. We have identified our hotspots, and we are moving forward with our first alternate care site in the St. Louis region.”

The Missouri National Guard is on-site on Wednesday starting the preconstruction process, with construction expected to start this weekend.

If necessary, the Florissant site could accommodate more than 100 people and be used to house individuals who test positive for COVID-19 with mild or no symptoms as well as individuals exposed to COVID-19 and identified and referred by health care professionals as requiring treatment but not hospitalization.

Hospitals may also transfer recovering patients no longer in need of acute care but still requiring medical assistance.

Criteria could be adjusted in consultation with health care professionals as the situation continues to develop.

“Our hospitals and medical professionals are working tirelessly to meet the needs of Missourians infected with COVID-19,” Parson said. “This alternate care site, which will include medical staffing from the Missouri National Guard and SEMA’s Disaster Medical Assistance Team (MO DMAT-1), can significantly increase their capacity by freeing up hospital beds for patients with more acute medical needs.”

Parson stated three main selection criteria were considered by the Alternate Care Site Working Group in choosing the Florissant site:

  • Located in an area with the potential need for additional beds;
  • Sufficient space for patient populations; and
  • Available utilities to start immediate construction.

The working group continues to conduct assessments of potential additional alternate care sites in case more beds are needed in the future.

Along with the Missouri National Guard, the agencies involved in these site assessments include the Missouri Department of Public Safety, the Missouri State Emergency Management Agency, the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, the Missouri Office of Administration, the Missouri Hospital Association, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

At the governor’s request, FEMA mission assigned the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to convert hotel rooms into temporary medical care rooms.

A mission assignment from FEMA is a work order to other federal agencies to undertake action to preserve public health and save lives during a disaster declaration.

Since Missouri is under a federal disaster declaration, FEMA will pay 75 percent of the costs associated with transforming the hotel into an alternate care site and/or caring for individuals housed there.

While the guard will provide medical professionals to staff the alternate care site, it will not designate personnel already supporting COVID-19 response in their civilian positions.

To potentially provide staffing for additional alternate care sites, the Department of Public Safety is currently reviewing applications from hundreds of medical professionals who responded to his call on Saturday, April 4, for physicians, nurses, respiratory therapists and other health care professionals to apply to join MO DMAT-1 in support of Missouri’s COVID-19 response.

Medical professionals say if Missourians continue to practice recommended social distancing, handwashing and sanitizing techniques, it will lessen the spread of COVID-19 and ease the pressure on hospitals, which would reduce the need for additional alternate care sites.

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