ST. LOUIS (AP) — Missouri’s unemployment rate more than doubled last month due to the shutdown caused by the coronavirus, state officials said Friday.
Still, Missouri's jobless rate of 9.7% was well below the national rate of 14.7%.
The Missouri Department of Economic Development released its April jobs report that spelled out the devastating impact of the halt to the economy that was part of the effort to slow the spread of COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus.
Missouri’s seasonally adjusted jobless rate rose to 9.7% in April, compared to 3.9% in March, when it had already started to rise because of the pandemic. The agency said it was the state’s largest ever unemployment rate increase.
HELP FOR NURSING HOMES
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on Friday began distributing more than $165 million in federal relief funds to skilled nursing facilities across Missouri.
Since the start of this year, skilled nursing facilities nationwide have seen a 6% decline in patient population as residents chose other care settings or died from the virus, HHS said.
The department said the funding can be used for critical needs such as labor, increasing testing capacity, acquiring personal protective equipment and other expenses directly connected to the pandemic.
CAPE GIRARDEAU BLOOD STUDY
A blood sample study in southeast Missouri indicates that many people may have had the coronavirus and not realized it.
The Cape Girardeau Public Health Center studied blood samples collected last week from 1,845 county residents, in search of coronavirus antibodies, the Southeast Missourian reported. Preliminary results showed that 16 participants had the antibodies. Based on the study, it’s possible that more than 650 of the county’s 79,000 residents could have had COVID-19 and not known it, health center officials said.
HOSPITAL WORKERS REUSING MASKS
N95 masks are meant for one-time use, but the shortage of the protective masks is forcing front-line workers at Mercy hospitals in Missouri and three other states to use them for three shifts in a row.
Mercy spokesman Joe Poelker confirmed to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that the three-time reuse policy was instituted across its hospitals in early April to help preserve the supply. The tight-fitting masks have filtration materials capable of blocking 95% of particles transmitted in the air by coughs, sneezes and medical procedures.
Federal crisis guidelines recommend storing the masks for at least five days in between shifts.
Mercy, based in suburban St. Louis, operates hospitals in Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Kansas.
PARKING LOT DINING IN KC
The city council in Kansas City on Thursday approved guidelines allowing restaurants and bars to set up temporary dining areas in parking lots, sidewalks and green spaces.
KCUR reported that under the new guidelines, restaurants and bars must space tables 10 feet apart, a potential challenge for smaller venues. The council also agreed to allow establishments to continue selling liquor to-go.
WORKERS RELUCTANT TO RETURN
Jana Franklin is ready to reopen her three St. Louis-area Jimmy John’s franchises, but convincing staff to return is proving difficult.
Franklin told the Post-Dispatch that she was forced to lay off around two dozen workers when dining rooms closed as part of the coronavirus shutdown. When she reaches out asking them to return, “It’s crickets,” she said.
The emergency response to the pandemic supplemented state unemployment programs with $600 weekly payments for displaced workers. In Missouri, payments can reach as high as $920 before taxes, and some workers have said they’re making more money by not working.
Missouri is asking employers to report workers who refuse to return, allowing the state to remove them from unemployment rolls. Franklin is still weighing how to handle that request.