JEFFERSON CITY - Gov. Mike Parson signed an executive order Thursday officially extending Missouri’s state of emergency for COVID-19. Following the signing, Parson held a briefing during which he focused on how to move forward with the extension and battle the statewide medical staffing shortage.

The governor said people need to change their behavior so that Missouri can move in the right direction in the battle against COVID-19, but stopped short of issuing a mask mandate or taking curfew or shutdown steps other states are taking.

“Missouri and the Midwest region remain central to the extreme COVID-19 outbreak our country is currently experiencing,” Parson said. “If we do not slow the spread of the virus, our health care system will quickly become overwhelmed. This creates a major risk not only for COVID-19 patients, but anyone requiring health care support, from emergency situations such as car accidents to the treatment of serious health conditions such as cancer.”

In addition to calling for a change in behavior, the Governor spoke about the status of the staffing shortage. Following his remarks he passed the shortage discussion off to the director of the Missouri Department of Health and Human services, Dr. Randall Williams.

Both Parson and Williams said the shortage is due to doctors and nurses becoming infected with the disease.

“The nicest thing we can do for them [doctors and nurses] is to get them vaccinated. We talked to the Missouri Hospital Association. One of the reasons that people can't work and stuff--it's more nurses, the doctors and other staff--is because they're either quarantined or they're isolated,” Dr. Williams said.

According to the director of the Missouri Nursing Association, Heidi Lucas, it's deeper than that. Aside from doctors and nurses being quarantined, she said the nursing shortage has been a reality in Missouri much longer than the pandemic has been around.

“We're already in a shortage. Another thing is there had been furloughs," Lucas said. "A lot of them were stopped being used at the beginning of the pandemic whenever hospitals were seeing a slowing down of certain units, elective procedures and stuff at the beginning of the pandemic." 

Lucas also said there is no help coming and the problem will only get worse from here. 

A news release from the governor's office stated:

Wearing a mask, social distancing, and proper hand hygiene remain the three major COVID-19 mitigation strategies.

Other key guidance includes the following:

- Limit interactions with others to less than 15 minutes

- Limit regular group interactions to a small group (10 or fewer) of family members

- Minimize travel outside of Missouri

- Consider occupancy limits reflective of social distancing

For more information about Executive Order 20-19, click here.