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ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Missouri health officials said Wednesday that the state state now has confirmed 356 cases of the coronavirus, an increase of 101 since Tuesday, as Gov. Mike Parson announced more steps to help the fight the spread of the virus.
The youngest of the eight deaths recorded in Missouri was a 31-year-old Red Cross employee who was buried Tuesday as her family watched from their cars.
The American Red Cross Missouri-Arkansas Region said biomedical services employee Jazmond Dixon died in St. Louis, another Red Cross worker tested positive and another staff member is presumed to be positive. None of the three had contact with the public, KSDK reported.
The other seven deaths include three women who lived at an assisted-living center in Springfield. A fourth resident of the Morningside East home is hospitalized.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.
Parson on Wednesday announced he asked President Donald Trump to approve a federal disaster declaration that would allow the state to receive federal assistance to help the unemployed and to remove biohazardous materials.
Public Safety Director Sandy Karsten said the governor on Wednesday shifted another $11 million from other areas of the state budget to buy more personal protective equipment, such as masks.
Parson also encouraged farmers, grocers and other workers in the food industry to keep working unless they're sick. And the governor announced during a daily briefing the number of unemployment claims in the state in the past week is roughly equal to 30% of all claims in 2019.
Cox South Hospital in Springfield said it plans to build what it calls a hospital within a hospital for COVID-19 patients. A currently vacant floor will be rebuilt into areas for patients needing ventilator support, using a large open room rather than individual rooms. It is expected to open by April 9.
Steve Edwards, president and CEO of CoxHealth, said in a statement several floors of a new tower were left empty when the hospital doubled in size five years ago so they could be developed as needed.
"A need in our community is now here, and we are ready to help our patients have the best chance of recovery that we can give them by developing some of that space," Edwards said. "I pray it is never used."
The coronavirus is prompting the release of nearly five dozen St. Louis jail inmates. Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner said that her office and the public defender's office worked together to identify 56 people being held on charges for low-level crimes, or who have significant health issues. They're asking the court to release them pending trial. St. Louis County also is expected to soon release some inmates.
Meanwhile, at least one Missouri college will not require ACT or SAT testing for potential incoming freshmen amid college entrance exam cancellations. Westminster College in Fulton said Wednesday it would evaluate applicants based on grade point average and other factors.
The Missouri Supreme Court on Wednesday extended through April 17 its statewide suspension on in-person court proceedings. The state Supreme Court on March 16 had suspended in-person proceedings through April 3.
This article has been updated, most recently edited at 4:35 p.m. to include Missouri's updated total of COVID-19 cases.