On May 4, Missouri began phase one of the state’s Show Me Strong Recovery Plan. This means that non-essential businesses and services around the state may start reopening this month in the name of economic recovery. However, this reopening plan will not have an impact on St. Louis County and the City of St. Louis as of now. Both the city and the county remain under stay-at-home orders until further notice by local officials. So while other places across Missouri may reopen, nothing changes for St. Louis City and County. The order by Governor Mike Parson is currently in place until Sunday, May 31. This order will be reevaluated before it expires and may be further restricted, less restricted or extended in the current form.
I believe the reopening order by Parson is extremely misguided, reckless and cowardly. This order looks to me that Parson is caving in to members of his base who would rather have more people in this state needlessly die if it means they can start dining in at Applebees again. Reopening a state that has not reached its peak in terms of infection rates in the midst of the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic is beyond idiotic. You can dress it up all you want as this being a “necessary” sacrifice for the state’s economic recovery but I know that’s not what this is really about. This is about selfish and hype-individualistic people like Parson who don’t want their perfect insular lives to face any sort of inconvenience even if it is done to prevent unnecessary death and suffering. Missouri’s working class can go kick rocks as far as Parson and his base are concerned.
While it is true that many small businesses in Missouri are suffering and may permanently shut down because of the pandemic, starting to reopen the economy this prematurely would not improve much in my eyes. Even with increased testing, expanding access to PPE and expanding health care capacity more people will inevitably head out into public more often. A higher infection rate means a higher hospitalization rate, which would put an increasingly overwhelming strain on the health care system all around the state. The more overwhelmed the health care system becomes makes the jobs of frontline nurses and doctors even more dangerous and difficult. An overwhelmed health care system would only lead to increase in preventable deaths from COVID-19 and other ailments. I seriously doubt people around the state would want to keep going out in public when the death rate starts to spike. In this case, Missouri’s economy and small businesses would be no better off than they were during lockdown. I seriously doubt the economic knowledge and instincts of anyone who thinks this half-baked reopening plan could lead to a different outcome.
What’s even more mind-boggling is that the businesses included in the reopening plan include places of worship, large venues/stadiums, restaurants and movie theaters. All of these venues are required to follow social distancing requirements between people while reopening, but how well can that really be enforced? Businesses and law enforcement may do their best to keep patrons six feet apart but that is still extremely difficult to enforce in medium to high capacity venues. An example of this is Eureka restaurant Camila’s Tex-Mex, whose employees allowed people into the restaurant due to poor weather conditions. This was done despite the fact the restaurant is located in St. Louis county and remains under lockdown orders which prohibit dining in. Photos showed at least fifteen people showing a complete lack of social distancing crowded around two tables within proximity of each other. To top it all off, in the background there was a piñata shaped like the coronavirus, featuring a racist Asian caricature on the front. It’s deeply unsettling that these selfish people are treating the COVID-19 pandemic like some joke, especially when those who will suffer the most from it are the highly exposed low-income employees of reopened businesses.
Reopening the economy at some point is definitely necessary for the state of Missouri, but I think Parson’s plan of starting to arbitrarily reopen this month in the midst of the first wave of COVID-19 is way too premature. Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker, for example, is in Phase 3 of the state’s reopening plan, meaning that the rate of infection of those tested, the number of patients admitted to the hospital and the number of patients needing ICU beds is stable or declining. Missouri, on the other hand, has not reached its peak or has widely available testing but has opted to reopen anyway. This decision could only lead to disaster in my eyes and will probably force Parson to restart statewide lockdown once COVID-19 infection rates start to spike. Maybe if Parson spent less time virtue signaling about refusing to wear a mask in the presence of frontline workers and actually did his job to help and protect his constituents, Missouri would not be in such a mess now and into the future. Instead of listening to the data from public health experts, Parson opted to cave to his party’s base and big business donors and has now put hundreds of thousands of Missourian lives at risk. This was all done in the hope that he will gain re-election in November as a lame duck unelected governor. When this disaster of a reopening plan has run its course, there’s only one thing that I want to ask Governor Parson: was all of this blood on your hands worth it?