By IVAN PEREIRA, ABC News
(JEFFERSON CITY, Mo.) — Missouri lawmakers were set to hold a special hearing this week on coronavirus-related policies and spending. However, that session was postponed after multiple state house members and staff contracted the disease, the Republican majority floor leader said.
The announcement came less than a week after state Republicans and Gov. Mike Parson attended a retreat where they were photographed not wearing masks. It was not immediately clear if the meetings were linked to the infections.
State Sen. Caleb Rowden, the majority floor leader, tweeted Monday that the special session scheduled for Nov. 19 and Nov. 20 would be put on hold until after the Thanksgiving break, because of “a number of positive COVID-19 cases among members and staff.”
The Republican-led state senate was going to vote on a plan related to over a billion dollars in federal COVID-19 relief and legislation that would protect businesses from pandemic-related lawsuits.
“This decision was not made lightly and, although disruptive, is in the best interest of protecting members, staff, and the public,” Rowden wrote. His office did not immediately return messages from ABC News for comment.
Last week, the Senate GOP held a three-day retreat in Branson to discuss policy issues and other matters.
Parson attended the retreat Nov. 11 and posted images of it on Twitter. The governor can be seen talking without a mask, and attendees of the indoor meeting also appeared to not be wearing face coverings.
Parson’s office didn’t immediately return messages to ABC News for comment. The governor has been encouraging residents this week to heed health guidance from state officials as COVID-19 cases rise.
“Missourians – we have to take responsibility – social distance, wear a mask, wash your hands, and avoid large crowds or gatherings,” he tweeted Monday.
Missouri, which does not have a statewide mandatory mask order, has seen a surge in new cases over the last couple of weeks. Missouri currently has 248,886 total coronavirus cases and 3,435 deaths, according to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services.
Between Oct. 14 and Nov. 14, the seven-day average for new cases in Missouri jumped from 1,820 to 4,052, according to data released by the health department, and more than 56 residents have died in the last week.
As of Nov. 14, 2,454 COVID-19 patients were hospitalized in Missouri, 570 of whom were in ICUs and 285 on ventilators, the department reported.
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