Weekly Update from the Missouri Catholic Conference                                       May 29, 2020  
Inside this issue
  Governor Orders Medicaid Expansion to Appear on August 4, 2020 Primary Ballot  
This week, Governor Parson issued a proclamation ordering the Medicaid expansion ballot initiative to appear on the August 4th primary ballot, rather than the November general election ballot. If passed, the ballot initiative would amend the Missouri constitution to expand Medicaid to Missouri citizens who earn up to 138% of the federal poverty level, consistent with the Affordable Care Act. Thirty-six states and the District of Columbia have already expanded Medicaid, and expansion of the program in Missouri is expected to increase the number of enrollees by approximately 250,000. Many low-income Missourians do not have access to health insurance through their jobs or are unable to afford such coverage. Medicaid expansion would provide them with consistent access to healthcare, improving both their lives and their ability to stay on the job. Many low-income workers now find themselves on the front lines of the COVID-19 health crisis, accentuating their need for access to health care.

The Missouri bishops issued a statement last fall in support of the ballot initiative, which can be found here. Other information about Medicaid, the Medicaid program in Missouri, and the Medicaid ballot initiative specifically can be found on the MCC website. The bishops urge Missouri Catholics to seriously consider supporting this ballot initiative.


  Lawsuit Challenging Medicaid Ballot Initiative Filed  
Several lawsuits were filed this week challenging the Medicaid expansion ballot initiative.  The lawsuits, filed by conservative advocacy organizations, challenge the initiative because it seeks to expand the Medicaid program without identifying a funding source for the expansion. The Missouri constitution, they argue, requires any initiative petition to identify a source of revenue to fund the objectives of the measure. Governor Parson, though not commenting on the lawsuits, indicated that one reason he is setting the ballot initiative on the August ballot is to know sooner rather than later whether the state will have to fund an expanded program. If Medicaid were expanded, the state would be responsible for funding 10% of the expanded population, with the federal government picking up the remaining 90%. The lawsuits seek to remove the matter from the ballot and will need to be resolved before the August primary.


  Administrative Hearing Commission Rules that State's Last Abortion Clinic Can Remain Open  
On Friday, the Missouri Administrative Hearing Commission (AHC) ruled that Planned Parenthood has demonstrated that it meets the requirements for the renewal of its abortion facility license in St. Louis. The decision comes after a week-long hearing in October of last year, in which Planned Parenthood appealed the denial of its license by the state Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS). DHSS officials had refused to renew the abortion clinic's license due to failed abortions discovered by department investigators and non-cooperation by some of the providers involved in the abortions. Although the AHC found that Planned Parenthood violated two provisions of state law, it ruled that the violations did not constitute substantial failures to comply with the law such that the facility's license renewal should be denied.

The ruling means that Missouri's last abortion clinic may remain open, although, as we reported in a previous edition of MCC Weekly Update, it appears that abortions in Missouri have virtually halted this year. It is unclear at this time what Planned Parenthood's intentions are with regard to continuing to perform abortions in St. Louis. We will continue to update you on this ruling as more information becomes available.


  Governor Parson Extends Phase I of Recovery Plan  
On Thursday, Governor Parson announced that he would extend Phase I of the state's "Show-Me Strong Recovery Plan" from Sunday, May 31, 2020 through Monday, June 15, 2020. This extension coincides with the state of emergency in Missouri, which had already been extended to June 15. The "Show-Me Strong Recovery Plan" focuses on four goals:
  1. Expand testing capacity and volume in the state
  2. Expand reserves of PPE (personal protective equipment) by opening up public and private supply chains
  3. Continue to monitor, and if necessary, expand hospital and health care system capacity
  4. Improve the ability to predict potential outbreaks using Missouri's public health data

During Phase I, individuals may take part in economic and social activities and all businesses may be open, as long as necessary precautions are taken and social distancing guidelines are followed (i.e. six feet of distance is maintained between individuals). Individuals are also prohibited from visiting nursing homes, long-term care facilities, retirement homes, or assisted living homes, unless they are to provide "critical assistance or in end-of-life circumstances".

Stating that he was "very pleased with how Phase I has gone", Governor Parson specified that his administration was extending the phase "not because Missouri has taken steps back," but because of the desire for continued progress and assured preparedness for Phase II. The governor also highlighted the state's progress with COVID-19 testing, stating that Missouri exceeded its sentinel (random) and community sampling testing goals for the prior week, and nearly met its weekly goal for box-in testing (going to an outbreak area and testing everyone who wants to be tested). 

More information on the Phase I extension, along with the full public health order, can be found on the governor's "Show-Me Strong Recovery Plan" website.


  American COVID-19 Death Toll Surpasses 100,000  
As states across the country begin to reopen their economies, COVID-19 cases continue to creep upward. This week, the American coronavirus death toll surpassed 100,000. At the time this MCC Weekly Update was published, the total COVID-19 death toll In Missouri was at 738.

With proper personal protective equipment (PPE) still in short supply, healthcare workers and others on the front lines face great risk in combating the coronavirus. Healthcare worker deaths have reached over 300, with the total frontline worker death toll largely unknown. It is a somber realization to accept as sunny skies and warmer temperatures can trick us into thinking the dangers of COVID-19 have subsided, but we must all continue to follow appropriate safety guidelines in order to protect others and ourselves.

This map from the New York Times identifies where cases are rising and falling across the United States.


  Catholic Mobilizing Network (CMN) Seeks Statement of Solidarity Support  
Last week, CMN joined a group of U.S. bishops and national Catholic leaders to release a joint Statement of Solidarity: A Catholic Response to COVID-19 Behind Bars. The statement calls for dignified treatment of incarcerated and detained individuals who face the pandemic without the benefit of social distancing and other protective measures in many cases.

Since its release, nearly 1,000 people of faith have signed on to the statement, including more that 40 Catholic dioceses, ministries and organizations. You can add your name to the Statement of Solidarity to stand with our brothers and sisters battling COVID-19 in prisons.

The impact of the coronavirus in jails, prisons, and detention centers has been severe.  Nationwide, thousands of incarcerated people and facility staff have tested positive for COVID-19 and over 100 people have died. In Missouri prisons, 45 inmates and 27 staff members have tested positive for the novel coronavirus; there has been one inmate death. Pope Francis reminds us that there are no "throwaway" lives, that we all have dignity in God's eyes.


  Update on Public Masses in Missouri  
Here are the latest guidelines for Catholic Masses in Missouri. Not all parishes will be following the same protocol, so be sure to check with your local diocese and parish (links to diocesan websites below) to see how and when in-person Masses will resume at your parish.

Whether at Mass or in other public spaces, we encourage you to continue to follow CDC guidelinesincluding social distancing, wearing a non-medical mask in public spaces, and frequent hand washing.

Follow these links to your Missouri diocese to learn more about when and how Masses will operate in your parish.

Archdiocese of St. Louis
Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph
Diocese of Jefferson City
Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau


  MCC Messenger on Five Years of Laudato Si' Now Available in Spanish!  
In the latest edition of MCC's Messenger, we reflect on the fifth anniversary of Laudato Si', and take a look at our Catholic connection to conservation and care for our common home. We are excited to announce that this issue is now available in Spanish on our website! The issue features an interview with Missouri Conservation Department (MDC) Deputy Director Aaron Jeffries, who shares some of the highlights of the history of MDC, along with innovative ways the Catholic Church can become involved in conservation efforts. Preceding Laudato Si', the church in Missouri was already an advocate for conservation. We've highlighted one example of a conservation or environmental care project in each Missouri diocese within the pages of this Messenger. 

Look for Messenger in the May 18th edition of the St. Louis Review, and the May 29th edition of the Mirror and Catholic Missourian, or visit our website to read it today!