Despite being instructed to collect this information the results were not made public. It took a Sunshine Law request from the Independent and the Documenting COVID-19 project to obtain charts and emails connected to the analysis. Those emails show that the analysis was actually performed by Assistant Bureau Chief Nathan Koffarnus, who forwards the results back to Department of Health Director Donald Kauerauf. While acknowledging that other variables are to be considered, Kaurauf makes this statement in his response.
“I think we can say with great confidence reviewing the public health literature and then looking at the results in your study that communities where masks were required had a lower positivity rate per 100,000 and experienced lower death rates.”
Referencing one of the charts attached, the difference is beyond stark. Masks aren’t just effective, they are shockingly effective.
These results, and the statement from the Department of Health, did not appear in the materials prepared to update Parson’s cabinet on the pandemic and were not made part of any public release. Neither the governor’s office nor the Department of Health has responded to requests for comment.
Missouri Gov. Parson rarely appears on the top list of Republican governors. That’s because, having stumbled into office after former Gov. Eric Greitens resigned in the middle of a scandal that included federal charges of invasion of privacy, Parsons is not on anyone’s shortlist of Republicans who might replace Trump on the 2024 ticket. However, when it comes to politicizing COVID-19 at every opportunity, at massive cost to the citizens of his state, Parsons has not missed a beat. With assistance from radical attorney general Eric Schmitt, Parsons has launched an assault on masks mandates, vaccine mandates, and the power of local officials that matches his more infamous colleagues like Ron DeSantis or Greg Abbott.
As with many other states, Missouri tends to have urban areas where Democratic support runs high, and rural areas that run from red to blood red. In the state’s two largest cities—Kansas City and St. Louis—Democratic officials attempted to protect citizens through mask mandates and social distancing restrictions. At the same time, Parson did everything he could to undercut these actions. That includes executive orders limiting local authority, stripping power from county health officials, and ordering the entire state government to cooperate in a lawsuit against vaccine mandates.
The New York Times data tracker indicates that St. Louis City has averaged 206 deaths per 100,000 throughout the pandemic, and Kansas City has averaged 192. However, rural Grundy County, Missouri has averaged 558 deaths per 100,000, with five other rural Missouri counties are also seeing deaths at rates over 500 per 100,000. Vaccination in these same rural counties averages 41%. Douglas County, MO, has averaged 478 deaths per 100,000, twice the national average, while having a vaccination rate of just 23%.
While the difference in vaccination rates certainly contributes to the vast gap between masked and unmasked areas in the state, the gap was already present and extremely significant before the first vaccines were available.