By JULIA JACOBO, ABC News
(JEFFERSON CITY, Mo.) — Missouri Gov. Mike Parson has contracted coronavirus — reportedly along with more than 1,800 state employees under his purview — after declining to issue a statewide mask mandate during the pandemic.
Parson’s office confirmed in a statement on Monday that he and his wife, Teresa Parson, had tested positive for the virus on Sept. 23 but have since fully recovered and returned to their regular schedules.
Four staffers in Parson’s office also tested positive and have recovered, according to the statement. However, 1,842 of some 53,000 state employees have been infected, according to a tally by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, based on data from the Missouri Office of Administration. That total does not include the Parsons.
The hardest-hit agencies were the Department of Corrections, at 646 cases, the Department of Mental Health, with 393, and the Department of Public Safety, with 211, according to the data.
Over the summer, Parson expressed skepticism that people would comply with a mask mandate.
“You don’t need government to tell you to wear a dang mask,” he said, mask-less during an event in Sedalia, according to the Post-Dispatch. “If you want to wear a dang mask, wear a mask.”
In August, Parson questioned whether guidelines for masks and social distancing would do any good.
“But at the end of the day, someone’s got to take those guidelines and say, ‘Are we willing to do that? Are we willing to give up gatherings? Are we willing to do social distancing?"” he told the Springfield News-Leader.
Parson returned to work on Monday after isolating for 10 days, the Post-Dispatch reported. His schedule included several ceremonies and a fundraiser in multiple cities. In a recorded video posted to Facebook, he said his wife was tested after experiencing mild, cold-like symptoms and that he was tested after experiencing no symptoms.
“Teresa and I are so grateful that we are two of well over 100,000 Missourians that have recovered from this virus,” Parson said in a statement. “We are glad to be back and want to again thank everyone for their thoughts and prayers.”
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