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

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson and first lady Teresa Parson tested positive for COVID-19. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson, File)

Credit: Jeff Roberson

Credit: Jeff Roberson

Republican Gov. Mike Parson has steadfastly refused to require residents to wear masks

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — 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.

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“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.”

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.

On Friday, he and several other Missouri Republican candidates appeared together at an event called the “TARGET BBQ” in Springfield. A photo posted on Parson’s Twitter pages shows Parson on a stage with four other statewide officeholders seeking reelection: Treasurer Scott Fitzpatrick, Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe, Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft and Attorney General Eric Schmitt. They appear to be a few feet apart from each other, but none are wearing masks.

Randall Williams, the Missouri Department of Health and senior services director, said contact tracing efforts have begun, seeking out people who have had close contact with the governor or his wife. Despite Parson’s many recent public appearances, it is believed that involves “a relatively small number of people.”

“I want everybody to know that myself and the first lady are both fine. Right now, I feel fine. No symptoms of any kind. But right now we just have to take the quarantine procedures in place.”

- Missouri Gov. Mike Parson

“Surprisingly it’s not as big a number as you might think because while they might be in a room with 1,000 people, the number of people who were literally with them for 15 minutes, right up next to them, is actually a smaller number,” Williams said at a news conference.

Parson is self-isolating in the governor’s mansion, Williams said. His wife is isolating at their home in Bolivar in southwestern Missouri.

Schmitt’s spokesman said the attorney general took a rapid test Wednesday, and the result was negative. Spokespeople for the other officeholders didn’t immediately respond to email messages.

Parson, 65, is facing Democratic State Auditor Nicole Galloway in the November election. The two were supposed to debate Friday in a forum hosted by the Missouri Press Association, but it has been postponed, said Mark Maassen, executive director of the association. He said the forum will be rescheduled.

“I wish Governor Parson and First Lady Teresa Parson a safe and full recovery," Galloway said in a statement. "This is a stark reminder that this virus can reach anyone, anywhere and that this pandemic is far from over. We must all continue to do our part in preventing the spread of the virus by practicing social distancing, washing hands, and wearing a mask.”

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.”

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