Reopening Missouri: Phase one begins Monday | What you need to know

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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP/KY3) -- All Missouri businesses and social events will be allowed to reopen Monday as long as residents and business owners continue to practice proper social distancing requirements, according to Gov. Mike Parson.

Missouri's economy will reopen in phases, starting Monday, as the state prepares to lift a stay-at-home order that forced businesses to close for weeks amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Gov. Parson says the first phase of the reopening might look different in various regions of the state and local governments will be able to impose stricter limitations if their officials believe it is necessary.

Starting Monday, Missourians will be able to return to all businesses, such as restaurants, manufacturing plants, gyms and, hair salons. Churches, sporting events and social gatherings may also resume, but local guidelines for reopening may supersede the state's guidelines.

Under state guidelines, there will be no limit on the size of social gatherings if people maintain the current six-foot social distancing efforts.

The governor acknowledged last week that many people will disagree with decisions made throughout the pandemic, but he said he believes Missourians will look back on the state and local efforts with pride.

"We are successfully flattening the curve," Gov. Parson said. "With the help of all Missourians, our plan is working. The health care system is not overwhelmed and we are winning the battle."

The decision to reopen was made based on favorable data and approval from state health officials, but Parson warned reopening will be gradual.

The first phase of reopening will last through May 31. State and health officials will re-evaluate the data later in May to determine the next step.

Parson, along with state, health and business leaders, said the decision was based on four "pillars" that have been reached — expanding testing capacity across the state, expanding reserves of personal protective equipment, continued monitoring of the hospital and health care system capacity and the improved ability to predict where "hotspots" of the disease might spring up in the state.

Herb Kuhn, CEO of the Missouri Hospital Association, said the reopening will include a phased in resumption of elective surgeries, which many people and doctors have postponed because of fears of the coronavirus. Hospitals are prepared to return to restricted operations if needed but the good social-distancing efforts of state residents and planning by state and health officials "puts us in a place where we believe we can safely move to this next step."

Nursing homes, long-term care facilities, retirement homes and assisted living homes, which have been hotspots in Missouri, must continue stronger guidance to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19.

Parson and Rob Dixon, director of the Missouri Department of Economic Development, stressed that the reopening will be successful only if Missourians use common sense, follow social distancing guidelines and continue proper hygiene.

Dixon said businesses are encouraged to implement safety measures such as temperatures testing, modifying work spaces, using staggered shifts and limiting access to common areas as the state continues to fight the virus for the foreseeable future.

As of Sunday, nearly 8,400 positive cases of COVID-19 and 350 deaths have been reported in Missouri, according to the Missouri Department of Health & Senior Services.

For a list of reopening plans and modified orders around the Ozarks, click here.

For the latest information on COVID-19 cases around Missouri and the Ozarks, click here.