As he delivers packages from the familiar sight of a white FedEx truck, Steve Brown wears purple gloves that keep dirt off his hands.
That’s been his practice since he started driving for the company more than two years ago. If he didn’t, he said, his hands would be black from the dirt the packages accumulate in transit.
"I am already a little germophobic, man," he said as he made stops in the Benton-Stephens neighborhood.
Columbia and Boone County are under a stay-at-home order that took effect at 8 a.m. Wednesday and Gov. Mike Parson is seeking a declaration from President Donald Trump that the state is a major disaster area.
The number of coronavirus infections continued to climb dramatically on Wednesday, up 101 statewide to 356 people. There is at least one confirmed infection in 40 of the 116 local health department jurisdictions around the state.
Boone County, which had the state’s first death, discovered community spread of the disease on Monday. The county’s count of confirmed cases climbed to 24 on Wednesday.
Working in an occupation exempted from the Boone County stay-at-home order, Brown is also trying to limit his contacts.
With online shopping the only kind available, he expects to get busier.
"In a sense it is job security, but at the same time it is kind of crazy," Brown said. "Everywhere I go, they are checking my temperature."
Parson filed for the federal disaster declaration to provide help to individuals, government agencies, businesses and not-for-profit groups struggling to cope with the pandemic.
"The COVID-19 pandemic has already had a devastating effect on the state of Missouri, straining hospitals, healthcare facilities and nursing homes, businesses large and small, schools, and tens of thousands of Missourians who have been forced out of their jobs," Parson said in a news release.
At his daily briefing Wednesday, Parson didn’t address the increase, but again defended his decision to hold off on issuing a stay-at-home order.
Parson’s current emergency order limits gatherings to 10 people and encourages everyone who can stay home to do so. He acknowledged that he has critics, but said the goal is to protect people.
"Everybody has a different idea of how that is to be done," he said. "I will say this, at the end of the day, there will be plenty of time to second-guess who done what, and why they done it.
"But right now there is no doubt in my mind, that people in this country, the industrial might of our country, our leadership, are all trying to do one thing right now, and that is to take care of the citizens in every state," Parson said.
Part of his daily briefing is an update on efforts by the Department of Public Safety to obtain the protective gear under extreme demand.
Director Sandy Karsten said Parson freed another $10 million from other state accounts to cover new orders.
In the vital farming sector, Agriculture Department Director Chris Chinn said every step in bringing food to depleted stores is essential. With planting season approaching, it is vital that farmers have the supplies of seed and feed they need.
"We in agriculture are working around the clock to make sure those shelves get restocked," she said.
The veteran from Pulaski County admitted to Truman Memorial Veterans Hospital is still being treated there, spokesman Jeffrey Hoelscher wrote in an email. No employees have tested positive.
At Boone Hospital Center, which has tested 395 people through early Wednesday, hospital spokeswoman Madison Loethen declined to say whether any patients are being treated there.
At University of Missouri Health Care, where almost 1,100 people have been tested since drive-through testing began, spokesman Eric Maze wrote that a special area has been prepared.
"We have a designated unit to care for patients who need to be hospitalized for COVID-19 operated by staff trained to handle these cases," he wrote.
Counties added Wednesday to the state’s list where infections have been found include Cape Girardeau in southeast Missouri and Newton in southwest Missouri.
The most cases are in St. Louis County, with 119 confirmed infections, followed by St. Louis with 44 and Kansas City with 43.
One of the new cases is a youth at the Hogan Street Regional Youth Center in St. Louis, the state Division of Youth Services said Tuesday evening.
The division learned of the positive test Monday evening, according to a news release. A local hospital evaluated the male youth and said the resident could recover at the center.
Division of Youth Services "staff immediately quarantined and isolated the youth upon his return to safeguard the health of all other youth in care at Hogan Street," the release said.
The division did not disclose the patient’s name and age. It said staff were contacting parents of other residents "to advise them of the situation and what steps DYS is taking to protect the safety and health of their child."
Approximately 45 percent of the state's population lives in locations that have issued stay-at-home orders. Along with Boone County, areas under those orders are Randolph County in central Missouri and Clay, Jackson, Greene and St. Louis counties and the city of St. Louis.
All school districts in the state are closed and will not reopen until at least early April under state orders for social distancing issued by Parson.
Nationally, there are 20 states that have issued stay-at-home orders. The number of known infections in the United States grew more than 20 percent Wednesday, to 65,778, with 926 deaths.
Worldwide, the novel coronavirus that emerged late last year has infected 467,594 people, with 21,162 deaths blamed on the disease.
The death rate, 3.4 percent early in the pandemic, has climbed to 4.5 percent.
In the request to declare Missouri a major disaster, Parson is seeking Disaster Unemployment Assistance and Crisis Counseling, under the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Individual Assistance Program, which provides assistance to individuals and families.
Families need both financial and emotional support during the pandemic, the release stated.
Parson also requested FEMA's Public Assistance Program for local governments and qualifying not-for-profit agencies with emergency response expenses, including those of first responders. He also requested that FEMA assist with debris removal expenses if needed for the removal and disposal of bio-hazard and other contaminated materials as a result of the pandemic response.
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