Missouri Gov. Mike Parson brushed off criticism of his decision to contract out for help coordinating the state’s COVID-19 response this week following accusations from Democrats that he lied about it.
In a news conference Thursday, Parson, a Republican, said the contract with the Virginia-based McChrystal Group has bought the state vital assistance with tasks like reassigning testing resources to focus on Black residents in St. Louis and figuring out where to build temporary hospitals for a potential caseload peak.
“Having outside resources in to help us through this was one of the better things we’ve done,” Parson said. “They’ve been very valuable.”
Contract draws criticism: ‘That response doesn’t seem to be working’
The contract began June 1 with the state paying the group roughly $830,000 of federal coronavirus relief money so far.
Parson was asked about the contract two days after it came under scrutiny in a St. Louis Post-Dispatch article.
The newspaper noted that the contract was signed less than a month after Parson said nonprofit Missouri Foundation for Health was paying the group without mentioning the state was set to take over soon.
The payments drew criticism from State Auditor Nicole Galloway, a Democrat looking to unseat Parson in the November election, as well as Democrats in the legislature who generally see little to praise in the administration’s approach to containing the virus.
“Today, all we have to show for (the contract) is rising infections, delayed school reopenings, a positivity rate over 10% and a spot on the White House Coronavirus Task Force’s `Red Zone,’” Galloway said in a statement Tuesday.
Rep. Sarah Unsicker, D-Shrewsbury, also chimed in, noting Parson has often left local officials to make calls on things like school closings and mask mandates.
“Why, exactly, are we spending $822K on our statewide ‘response’ to coronavirus when our response is to not lead and let the counties/cities do the heavy lifting?” she asked on Twitter. “That response doesn’t seem to be working.”
Coronavirus cases in Missouri on the rise
Parson and Dr. Randall Williams, the state’s top public health official, have pointed out that the number of cases and deaths per resident in Missouri compare favorably with the majority of other states so far.
But cases have been trending up here in the past couple of months
Missouri’s infection rate has been the 19th-highest among the 50 states and the District of Columbia since July 1; Missouri’s death rate has been the 29th-highest.
During the same time period, Parson has resisted imposing a mask mandate like those in place in more than 30 other states despite indications they could help slow caseload growth, which has also prompted criticism.
Recommendations have come from the Missouri State Medical Association, the Springfield City Council and the White House Coronavirus Task Force, to no avail.
Austin Huguelet is the News-Leader’s politics reporter. Got something he should know? Have a question? Call him at 417-403-8096 or email him at [email protected]er.com. You can also support local journalism at News-Leader.com/subscribe.
This article originally appeared on Springfield News-Leader: Parson defends $800K COVID consulting contract with former Army general’s firm