ST. LOUIS (AP) — Missouri Gov. Mike Parson's coronavirus diagnoses came about a week after he visited a state office building despite being warned about an outbreak among workers, emails show.
The emails obtained by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch show that a public relations officer at the Department of Commerce and Insurance asked Parson’s spokeswoman whether the governor wanted to move forward with Sept. 16 event at the Harry S Truman State Office Building in Jefferson City “given the building situation.”
Parson, a Republican running for a four-year term, was diagnosed with COVID-19 on Sept. 23, about a week after the visit. His office has not said whether officials have any indication where the governor contracted the virus.
The email traffic mentioned a “small cluster” of COVID-19 cases at the state office building. Of more than 100 tests, 12 came back positive, with most showing no symptoms, according to the email, which was signed by Office of Administration Commissioner Sarah Steelman.
“Governor Parson still plans to swing by on Wednesday,” Kelli Jones, Parson’s spokeswoman, told Lori Croy, a public relations officer at the Department of Commerce and Insurance, on Sept. 14.
“Okay,” Croy said. “We’ll prepare.”
The state workers reserved a large conference room for the visit, which “allows us to have a few more people than any of our internal conference rooms will allow with social distancing,” Croy said on Sept. 14.
Parson made numerous other in-person visits elsewhere in the days before he tested positive, including a visit to the Mount Vernon Veterans Home in southwest Missouri, which subsequently logged its first case of the virus. Jones, Parson’s spokeswoman, said the governor’s office didn’t believe he contracted the virus at the veteran's home.
Though some photographs show Parson wearing a mask during this time, others show him without a mask.
His Democratic opponent in the Nov. 3 election, State Auditor Nicole Galloway, has said she would implement rules requiring face coverings in public places, something Parson has resisted.