A nearly deserted University of Missouri campus.


Popular businesses shuttered.


Schools closing and professional offices sending people home to work.


The signs that life has changed because of a new virus circling the globe and killing about 3.5 percent of the people who catch it are everywhere in Columbia and other communities across Missouri.


On Monday morning, Gov. Mike Parson made the latest in what has become a routine announcement — another positive test, this one the sixth, was found. That the person lives in Greene County is the only other information provided.


Missouri has completed testing on 170 samples with 164 negative, Parson said.


There are three positive tests in Greene County, two others in St. Louis County and one from Henry County.


"No positives reported from commercial labs," Parson wrote.


The number of confirmed cases in the U.S., as tracked by Johns Hopkins University, increased Monday to 4,287 by 4 p.m. There have been 74 deaths blamed on COVID-19 in the U.S.


There were more than 181,000 cases worldwide as of Monday evening, with more than 7,100 deaths.


And after the recommendation Sunday from the Centers for Disease Control to avoid gatherings of 50 or more people, Parson made a similar recommendation.


In a news conference, Parson and Dr. Randall Williams, the director of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, said that the state's testing criteria will change from travel-related and the most severe cases to trying to find people with coughs and fevers of 104 degrees.


"The good news for the time being is that help is on the way," Parson said. "I think we’re going to be able to see a lot more on the testing side of it that will reassure the people of the state. I think you’ll also see mobile testing sites in different areas around the state," particularly in areas that currently struggle with access to health care.


Parson said Monday that he is aware of the impact new restrictions could have on businesses and the economy, but that public safety must be the state's top priority.


"Missouri has been through tough times before and we're going to get through these," Parson said. "... Right now we're just asking people to help as much as they can help and (to) try to be responsible."


Before Sunday’s CDC recommendation, the University of Missouri and most other college campuses had announced they were switching to online learning for the remainder of the semester.


"During the week of March 16-20, we will not penalize students for missed connections, assignments, tests or quizzes," Chancellor Alexander Cartwright wrote in a message to students sent Sunday evening. "This means faculty may decide to continue with assessments, but if a student is unable to connect or has other technical issues, we ask for flexibility from our faculty to make accommodations. We also ask patience from our students, who may see problems with course presentation or delivery."


On Sunday, Pastor Carol McEntyre told her congregation at First Baptist Church that there will be no services for the foreseeable future. On Monday, she joined with pastors from 11 other churches in a joint letter to their congregations.


"We recognize that all pastors are making the best decisions they can under difficult circumstances, and churches are taking different approaches," the pastors wrote. "As an act of solidarity, we are supporting one another as pastors and congregations and making this decision together."


The pastors signing, and more may do so, represent Rock Bridge Christian Church, First Christian Church of Columbia, Broadway Christian Church, Memorial Baptist Church, Columbia Friends Meeting, Missouri United Methodist, the First Presbyterian Church, Calvary Episcopal Church, St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church, Unity of Columbia and the Unitarian-Universalist Church of Columbia.


"All last week this group of pastors was emailing back and forth, asking what are you doing," McEntyre said. "We are leaning on each other, trying to support each other and trying to make the best decision we can. It is a difficult decision because in time of crisis people need the church more than ever."


Starbucks was closed downtown and in one restaurant, patrons are sitting every other seat.


David Johnson, owner of Broadway Diner, placed red tape between counter stools and at every other table to distance customers from each other to help people avoid contact with each other. Johnson said business is down about 15 percent and implemented the dining safety procedure himself to make his customers feel more comfortable.


Parson, in a statement released Sunday, asked "that facilities that attract large concentrations of senior citizens to strongly consider restrictions and closures, in consultation with health authorities, to protect those most vulnerable to this virus.


"We encourage schools to follow CDC guidelines and consult with local health care providers and public health authorities as decisions are made on whether to keep school in session."


Parson said in a news release that his recommendations included exceptions for "educational institutions, daycare facilities, and business operations."


Missouri lawmakers worked Sunday on the state budget and state House members will be in Jefferson City on Wednesday to vote, then go home for two weeks at least.


Missouri State Treasurer Scott Fitzpatrick on Monday announced he has instituted a work-from-home policy for most staff.


The State Historical Society of Missouri announced Monday that it would close the Center for Missouri Studies to the public from Tuesday through March 31.


The Associated Press contributed to this report.


rkeller@columbiatribune.com


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