The economic collapse accompanying the COVID-19 pandemic will hit Missouri colleges and universities hard as the state imposes budget cuts to deal with a revenue shortfall worse than the Great Recession, Gov. Mike Parson said Wednesday.

Parson’s announcement that he is cutting $171 million in general revenue spending came on the second consecutive day when the number of newly discovered coronavrius infections in Missouri increased by more than 200.

The increase of 254 new cases was second only to the 296 new infections for Missouri reported Tuesday in the ongoing pandemic. The Department of Health and Senior Services reported that it had received reports of 1,581 confirmed infections with the coronavirus that causes the disease COVID-19.

There have been 18 deaths reported in Missouri, with Greene County now reporting six deaths, five in a single nursing home.

Parson said during his daily briefing that projections show a likely $500 million decline in state revenues for the year that ends June 30, with declines continuing into the next fiscal year.

An increase in federal support for the Medicaid program could offset $300 to $325 million of the shortfall.

To offset the decline, he ordered $61.3 million cut from state appropriations for higher education institutions, about 7 percent of the $900 million total for four-year universities and community colleges.

Overall, Parson ordered $171 million withheld from state general revenue spending, including $6.5 million from the state Division of Tourism. That is about one-third of the division’s total budget to be withheld with one quarter of the year remaining.

"Now we are expecting significant revenue declines, some of which may be larger than those experienced in the Great Recession," Parson said.

In addition to the cuts for institutional support, Parson also is withholding higher education funding of $2.4 million for the NextGen Precision Health Institute at the University of Missouri’s Columbia campus. The state provided $10 million in this year’s budget to support the $221 million research facility currently under construction.

The withholdings for the University of Missouri System total approximately $36.5 million, the university said in a news release.

The university understands the actions Parson is taking, UM System President Mun Choi said in the release.

"The state is working hard to prioritize its resources, and we must all work together to get past this crisis," Choi said.

The university is also anticipating losses in investment income and student tuition, and must refund some money to students allowed to withdraw from courses.

"Our goal is to ensure the long-term viability and mission of the university," Choi said. "To that end, we expect to make additional difficult decisions in the future."

When the financial collapse hit in 2007 and 2008, Missouri revenues declined $1.3 billion over two years and did not fully recover to pre-recession levels until 2014.

"We are seeing unprecedented drops in revenue from the significant reduction of economic activity, from people staying home," state Budget Director Dan Haug said during Parson’s briefing.

Parson continued to state his confidence that the economic recovery after the pandemic will be swift. The economy was strong before the pandemic and it will be again, he said.

"I do believe this is not going to be like a normal recession," Parson said. "I do believe when we get past the COVID-19 situation, the economy will come back a lot faster than normal."

The state continues to attempt to quell rumors that the National Guard and national Armed Forces are preparing to impose martial law. Sandy Karsten, director of the Department of Public Safety, spoke of flyers being distributed in some locations to prey on fear.

"These are flat out lies," she said.

The largest outbreaks of COVID-19 continue to be in the state's urban areas. St. Louis County has more than 600 cases, with another 176 in the city of St. Louis. On the western side of the state, Kansas City reported 128 infections and Jackson County outside Kansas City had 86 more.

Boone County, with 66 cases on Wednesday with no new cases reported, had the largest number outside those two areas, followed by Greene County with 51, Jefferson County with 38 and Cole County with 24.

Boone County and 34 other jurisdictions in the state are under stay-at-home orders, an increase seven since Monday. The orders cover roughly 75 percent of the state's population.

The contagion has now spread to 69 of the state's 117 reporting local health jurisdictions.

The largest outbreaks continue to be in the state's urban areas. St. Louis County has more than 600 cases, with another 176 in the city of St. Louis. On the western side of the state, Kansas City reported 128 infections and Jackson County outside Kansas City had 86 more.

Boone County had the largest number outside those two areas, followed by Greene County with 51, Jefferson County with 38 and Cole County with 24.

The pandemic is ravaging nursing homes in Missouri as the number of sickened and dead continues to grow.

In Kirksville, an 80-year-old Kirksville Manor Care resident learned he was positive on his birthday.

Unfortunately, he spent Wednesday isolated with his roommate, a 58-year-old male, as they both tested positive for COVID-19. A third resident at the facility, also an 80-year-old male, was reported as a positive case on Wednesday afternoon by an Adair County Health Department release.

"We have a staff member who’s back there to tape up balloons and we sang Happy Birthday to him so he could hear it," administrator Tina Johnson told the Kirksville Daily Express. "We’re trying to maintain the fact that they’re still here. Again, there’s been some ups and downs, but we’re trying to help them be as positive as they can."

Health officials announced Tuesday that a resident in his 90s at the assisted-living facility Morningside of Springfield East died of the virus, bringing the number of deaths at that facility to five, the Springfield News-Leader reported.

Meanwhile, the number sickened at Frontier Health and Rehabilitation in St. Charles grew to a dozen residents and two staff members, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. At least 12 other ill staff members were staying home awaiting testing, a company spokesman Craig Workman said Tuesday.

In other developments Wednesday, the University of Missouri’s St. Louis campus became the first to announce it would continue online-only coursework beyond the end of the spring semester when it stated it would only offer summer classes through the web.

UMSL’s decision to continue with online coursework for the summer term is a proactive step to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and ensure the health and safety of its students, faculty and staff.

The campus will waive all online course fees.

"There remains a lot of uncertainty about what will happen in the months ahead, and by making this this decision now, we hope to provide some clarity for our students and faculty and give them time to plan and prepare," Interim Chancellor and Provost Kristin Sobolik said.

Nationally, there were 213,372 confirmed infections in the United States at about 7 p.m. Wednesday, with more than 4,600 deaths attributed to COVID-19. The numbers reported in the U.S. grew by 27,000 in about than 24 hours, with the number of deaths up almost 800 in the same period.

Worldwide, there were more than 933,000 confirmed infections, up almost 70,000 in about 24 hours. Deaths worldwide that are blamed on the coronavirus now total 46,809.

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