Missouri Governor Brands Face Mask Use Personal Choice After Not Wearing One in Thrift Store Visit

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson defended his choice to not wear a face mask as he visited a thrift store run by disabled veterans, stating such decisions should be "up to the individual."

A photo from Monday, when businesses began reopening in Missouri as coronavirus stay-at-home orders were lifted, showed Parson visiting the Red Racks DAV in Joplin.

In the image he is stood beside a group of veterans, all of whom are wearing masks, though Parson is not.

Stopped by Red Racks DAV in Joplin before they opened this morning and met with employees and several members of the DAV board. pic.twitter.com/TKkYHHlndj

— Governor Mike Parson (@GovParsonMO) May 4, 2020

Asked about this at a press conference yesterday in Jefferson City, he said: "I chose not to. I think it's up to the individual. I don't think it's government's place to regulate that. It's your personal responsibility. Common sense, self-discipline, your choice."

Despite stating the use of face masks came down to personal choice, Parson was insistent that a level of social distancing should still be adhered to.

"We are on the road to recovery, and we must continue to be proactive and maintain social distancing to protect ourselves and everyone around us," he tweeted.

At Monday's press conference, he also encouraged people to make "safe, smart and responsible decisions," adding: "We have a long way to go."

Parson also visited the COVID-19 Response Unit at Cox South, and during that trip he did wear a mask.

Newsweek has contacted Parson for further comment.

As well as his comments on masks, Parson also detailed CARES Act funding for Missouri, stating it would begin to be distributed to local governments. The supported amounted to around $2.4 billion in federal funding.

Missouri has seen 8,887 COVID-19 cases and 383 deaths of people who have contracted the disease. Nearly 400 new cases and six more deaths were reported Monday.

A state of emergency in Missouri linked to the coronavirus outbreak has been extended until June 15.

Its social distancing advice recommends people remain six feet apart, unless they have a job which makes them unable to do so.

Parson is not the first official to be seen not wearing a face mask in public.

Vice president Mike Pence previously did not wear such a covering on a visit to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, where he went to see the facility's handling of the COVID-19 outbreak. However, he has since spoken of his regret at not doing so.

mike parson
Gov. Mike Parson speaks during a press conference in Jefferson City in May 2019. He has said he thinks wearing a face mask should be the choice of the individual. Jacob Moscovitch/Getty Images

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Advice on Using Face Coverings to Slow Spread of COVID-19

  • CDC recommends wearing a cloth face covering in public where social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.
  • A simple cloth face covering can help slow the spread of the virus by those infected and by those who do not exhibit symptoms.
  • Cloth face coverings can be fashioned from household items. Guides are offered by the CDC. (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/diy-cloth-face-coverings.html)
  • Cloth face coverings should be washed regularly. A washing machine will suffice.
  • Practice safe removal of face coverings by not touching eyes, nose, and mouth, and wash hands immediately after removing the covering.

World Health Organization advice for avoiding spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19)

Hygiene advice

  • Clean hands frequently with soap and water, or alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Wash hands after coughing or sneezing; when caring for the sick; before, during and after food preparation; before eating; after using the toilet; when hands are visibly dirty; and after handling animals or waste.
  • Maintain at least 1 meter (3 feet) distance from anyone who is coughing or sneezing.
  • Avoid touching your hands, nose and mouth. Do not spit in public.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or bent elbow when coughing or sneezing. Discard the tissue immediately and clean your hands.

Medical advice

  • Avoid close contact with others if you have any symptoms.
  • Stay at home if you feel unwell, even with mild symptoms such as headache and runny nose, to avoid potential spread of the disease to medical facilities and other people.
  • If you develop serious symptoms (fever, cough, difficulty breathing) seek medical care early and contact local health authorities in advance.
  • Note any recent contact with others and travel details to provide to authorities who can trace and prevent spread of the disease.
  • Stay up to date on COVID-19 developments issued by health authorities and follow their guidance.

Mask and glove usage

  • Healthy individuals only need to wear a mask if taking care of a sick person.
  • Wear a mask if you are coughing or sneezing.
  • Masks are effective when used in combination with frequent hand cleaning.
  • Do not touch the mask while wearing it. Clean hands if you touch the mask.
  • Learn how to properly put on, remove and dispose of masks. Clean hands after disposing of the mask.
  • Do not reuse single-use masks.
  • Regularly washing bare hands is more effective against catching COVID-19 than wearing rubber gloves.
  • The COVID-19 virus can still be picked up on rubber gloves and transmitted by touching your face.