KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Missouri Gov. Mike Parson said the Missouri State Fair showcases “the best of Missouri agriculture,” promising to “safely keep it going and keep the tradition alive” during a press conference Thursday afternoon from Jefferson City.
He announced last week that he would not cancel the event, which has only been canceled one previous time during World War II.
Parson and other state leaders also discussed a new mental health initiative in Missouri as well as the state’s economic outlook during the briefing.
Missouri Department of Agriculture Director Chris Chinn called Parson “our biggest supporter.”
She said there will be additional hand sanitizer and enhanced cleaning protocols in place at the state fair and all concerts have been canceled, but “our livestock shows, our camping and our carnival are on for this year.”
Chinn explained the reason for canceling the concerts: “Those are ticketed sale events and many of the performers were already backing out.”
While many surrounding states have canceled state fairs this summer, Chinn said the rural setting gives state leaders confidence in being able to continue the tradition.
Parson plans to remain heavily involved in the state fair.
“I’m just going to say hello to the folks who are at the fair,” Parson said. “There are several events me and the first lady try to be part of and we’ll continue to do that.”
Parson said the Governor’s Ham Breakfast, which brings together legislators and agricultural leaders in Missouri, will take place as well, but he noted there may be some measures taken as necessary to limit crowd sizes depending on the state of the virus in Missouri two months from now.
The fair will take place as scheduled Aug. 13-23 in Sedalia, Missouri.
Parson and department heads also touched on several other subjects during Thursday’s press conference.
The Department of Mental Health announced a new crisis counseling program, Show-Me Hope, which is funded through a $2.3 million grant from FEMA, to address mental health — especially stress and anxiety — people are feeling from the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The program is free for Missouri residents
To access the Show-Me Hope crisis line, call 800-985-5990 or text “talkwithus” to 66746.
Director Mark Stringer also announced that $100,000 has been diverted from CARES Act funding for additional help in St. Louis, which has been the hardest hit area in the state.
Stringer wore a purple tie in honor of one of two Department of Mental Health employees who have died from COVID-19 during the last week.
He said employees in his department will continue to receive hazard pay, if they work in a facility where there has been a positive test.
“We will keep that up for the foreseeable future,” Stringer said.
Parson said the state is seeing signs of economic recovery since Missouri partially reopened May 4 and “fully” reopened Tuesday.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics revised up April 2020 unemployment numbers to 10.2% and revised down March 2020 numbers by 3.9%, the bureau announced.
The bureau said the Missouri labor market rebounded slightly in May 2020, dipping to 10.1% for last month — a marginal drop from the revised April figures.
“Our labor market began a rebound in May following the major job losses in April due to COVID closures,” Parson said. “... While we still have a lot of work to do, this is a good sign” for the state economy.
Chinn said the food supply chain has rebounded despite a sea change in consumer behavior due to stay-at-home orders.
“Even with our short-term price changes in the last few weeks,” Chinn said she’s proud of “the strength and resiliency of my fellow farmers” and is seeing those price increases reverse at the grocery store.
Still, Missouri is facing massive COVID-19 outbreaks at meatpacking plants across the state, including one at a Tyson plant in McDonald County and another at a Butterball facility in Carthage, Missouri.
Department of Health and Senior Services Director Dr. Randall Williams said the state is deploying its box-in strategy at the Tyson plant in Noel, Missouri.
Alarmingly, Williams said with these new clusters, “we are seeing a higher incidence of cases in children” and many of the workers are native Spanish speakers.
That has led the state to seek help from the Mexican consulate in Kansas City to help reach vulnerable populations and provide information about testing and safety measures.