During Gov. Mike Parson’s COVID-19 briefing this week he emphasized the importance of testing to economic recovery in Missouri.
“As we move forward, testing will be critical to Missouri’s full economic recovery and giving Missourians more confidence. We have the testing capacity, and now we must find ways to use that capacity to test as many people as we can,” Parson said. “Once our testing numbers are up, we can really start to ramp up our focus on the economy.”
Parson said the state’s goal within the next week is to increase testing to 7,500 tests per day.
As of 2 p.m. Wednesday, May 20, 158,296 Missourians have been tested for COVID-19 since March 7. Approximately 90 percent of these tests have been negative.
The state has reported 11,080 cases and 616 deaths.
Of Missouri’s 11,080 positive COVID-19 patients, the vast majority have not been hospitalized and have recovered at home, the governor said.
“Again, it is critical to understand that the more tests we do, the more positive cases there will be,” Parson said. “By increasing testing, we can continue to slow the spread by identifying positive patients and isolating them as quickly as possible.”
Expanding COVID-19 testing capacity and volume is one of the four pillars of Missouri’s “Show Me Strong Recovery” plan, along with expanding PPE reserves, monitoring health care system capacity, and using public health data to predict potential outbreaks.
Missouri Department of Revenue (DOR) Director Ken Zellers also joined the press briefing to provide an update.
On March 21, DOR announced changes related to taxes, motor vehicle, and driver licensing to help ease customer concerns and promote social distancing amid COVID-19.
The department provided automatic special tax relief to individuals and corporations by extending several filing and payment deadlines, including those associated with individual and corporate income tax, through July 15.
DOR has received and processed approximately 2.5 million individual income tax returns. This is roughly 358,000 less than the same time last year and is largely due to the tax filing extension. DOR continues working quickly to process returns and issue refunds.
The department also took several steps to help alleviate congestion in local license offices amid COVID-19. DOR granted an automatic 60-day extension for Missouri driver’s licenses, nondriver licenses and instruction permits with original expiration dates of March 1, 2020, through April 30, 2020.
Vehicle owners with registrations (license plates) expiring in March and April were also granted an automatic two-month extension. Individuals with license plates that expired in March 2020 will have until May 31 to renew their license plates without paying a late penalty at a license office.
Similarly, those with license plates that expired in April 2020 will have until June 30, 2020, to renew without paying a late penalty.
Although the automatic penalty waiver for title applicants expired April 30, contract license offices have been instructed to continue waiving title penalties for applicants who were unable to title their vehicle in March or April due to COVID-19.
Any customer who was not able to title their vehicle in March or April due to COVID-19 but was assessed a title penalty after April 30 may request a refund by filling out Form 426 and submitting it to DOR.
Of the 173 contract license offices across the state, 170 have reopened. DOR continues to encourage customers to renew their license plates earlier in the month and consider using the online license plate renewal system, which is a fast, convenient way to renew without leaving home.
The department’s tax assistance offices in Cape Girardeau, Jefferson City, Joplin and Springfield have reopened their doors to walk-in customers. The offices in Kansas City and St. Louis remain closed to walk-in customers at this time.
DOR also is piloting “virtual lobbies” in its Motor Vehicle and Driver Licensing Division offices in the Harry S Truman Building in Jefferson City and in the Jefferson City Tax Assistance Office. With this new system, customers can be notified by text when it is their turn to be assisted, allowing them to hold their place in line while they wait outside the building, in their car, etc.
Additionally, DOR continues working to promote its 24/7 virtual assistant chatbot, DORA. Since launching in November, DORA has provided more than 614,000 responses to customer questions. The department consistently sees about 30 percent of user sessions occurring during nonbusiness hours.