Wed | Oct 21, 2020

Missouri governor, opponent of mandatory masks, has COVID-19

Published:Wednesday | September 23, 2020 | 6:41 PM
FILE - In this Aug. 6, 2020 file photo, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson speaks during a news conference in St. Louis. Gov. Parson, a Republican who has steadfastly refused to require residents to wear mask, and First Lady Teresa Parson tested positive for COVID-19, Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2020. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson, File)

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri Gov. Mike Parson, a Republican who has steadfastly refused to require residents to wear masks, tested positive for the coronavirus, his office said Wednesday.

Parson was tested after his wife, Teresa, tested positive earlier in the day. Teresa Parson had experienced mild symptoms, including a cough and nasal congestion, spokeswoman Kelli Jones said. She took a rapid test that came back positive and a nasal swab test later confirmed the finding. The governor’s rapid test showed he tested positive and he is still awaiting results from the swab test.

“I want everybody to know that myself and the first lady are both fine,” Parson said in a video posted on his Facebook page.

“Right now I feel fine. No symptoms of any kind,” Parson said in the video. “But right now we just have to take the quarantine procedures in place.”

Gov. Parson postponed several events through the remainder of the week. He and his wife had been traveling around the state this week for events that included a ceremonial bill signing in Cape Girardeau, where a photo posted Tuesday on the governor’s Facebook page showed both of them wearing masks.

Parson has repeatedly urged residents to wear masks and maintain social distancing, but he has been an outspoken opponent of mask mandates, sometimes appearing at functions without one. In July, speaking without a mask at a Missouri Cattlemen’s Association steak fry in Sedalia, he reiterated his stance.

“You don’t need government to tell you to wear a dang mask,” he said. “If you want to wear a dang mask, wear a mask.”

Parson’s opposition to statewide mask mandates has held strong even as the White House Coronavirus Task Force has recommended a face covering requirement in Missouri given the state’s escalating number of confirmed cases. When Parson allowed the state to reopen for business in mid-June, about 16,000 cases had been confirmed. The state health department on Wednesday added 1,580 new cases, bringing the total to 116,946 since the pandemic began.

Parson would be considered a potential high-risk patient given his age and a preexisting condition. On Christmas Eve in 2016, Parson underwent heart surgery after doctors discovered a blockage during a routine checkup in Springfield.

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