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Missouri Gov. Parson And First Lady Test Positive For Coronavirus

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson (center) and First Lady Teresa Parson (right), seen in this June 2018 photograph, tested positive for the coronavirus on Wednesday.
File photo / Tim Bommel
Missouri House Communications
Missouri Gov. Mike Parson (center) and first lady Teresa Parson (right), seen in June 2018, tested positive for the coronavirus on Wednesday.

Updated at 6:07 p.m. Sept. 23

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson announced Wednesday afternoon that he has tested positive for the coronavirus.

His wife, Teresa, also tested positive after displaying mild symptoms, described as “the sniffles,” earlier in the day. She decided to take a rapid test, and the results came back positive, Parson’s staff said.

The governor said he does not have any symptoms at this time and feels fine. He is in isolation and is postponing all future events, including a gubernatorial debate that was scheduled for Friday.

Parson said his wife is resting at their home in Bolivar while he continues to work from the Governor’s Mansion in Jefferson City. In a short video message shared on Facebook and Twitter, Parson told Missourians he and his wife were doing well.

“We’re both fine,” he said. “We’re going to move forward on this and again, I want to encourage everybody what I have said every day … take care of yourselves. Do the best you can to protect yourselves. Social distance, wear a mask, personal hygiene.”

Missouri is the second state, after Oklahoma, to have a governor test positive for the coronavirus.

Parson, who has been criticized for not issuing a statewide mask mandate, has attended some public events without wearing a mask and has called them a "political issue."

Even after the positive results came in, Missouri’s Department of Health and Senior Services director, Dr. Randall Williams, stayed on that message, saying a mask mandate throughout the state would not be beneficial.

“If you’re too draconian everywhere ... it’s almost like it creates more problems than it solves,” Williams said at a press briefing on Wednesday.

The department and Cole County will be conducting contact tracing for these cases. Despite the governor’s busy campaign schedule, Williams said there appears to be a “relatively small number of people” who have come into sustained contact.

The governor was expected in St. Louis on Wednesday for a ceremonial bill signing for legislation that lifts residency requirements for city police officers and other emergency responders. That event has been canceled and will be scheduled at a later date.

Parson's Democratic opponent in November, state Auditor Nicole Galloway, wished the Parsons "a safe and full recovery."

"This is a stark reminder that this virus can reach anyone, anywhere and that this pandemic is far from over," Galloway said.

The governor and the first lady are awaiting results from a more accurate test and should have more information on Thursday.

Correction: A previous version of this story included a photograph and caption that misidentified Teresa Parson.

Jaclyn is the Jefferson City statehouse reporter for St. Louis Public Radio.