The $6.9 million payout of emergency financial aid was authorized by the Coronavirus, Relief and Economic Security or CARES Act.

The first phase of MSU's relief plan totals $1.6 million in Immediate Assistance Grants, according to a news release.  Missouri State University has sent $250 to students who meet certain criteria.

The 40th anniversary of a springtime tradition in Springfield is yet another casualty of social distancing caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.  ArtsFest on Walnut Street 2020 was scheduled to take place this Saturday and Sunday, May 2nd and 3rd, in the Walnut Street Historic District between South National Avenue and John Q.

The City of Nixa has updated its emergency order, known as the Nixa Strong Recovery Plan.  Nixa Mayor Brian Steele says the updates go into effect Monday and will continue through May 31.

According to city officials, the updated order, signed by Steele, expands upon the statewide order.  

These are the updates as provided by Nixa city officials:

The Spring Book Sale to benefit the Springfield-Greene County Library is canceled.  It had already been moved from late April to late May due to COVID-19 concerns.

The Friends of the Library Board of Directors also changed the date of the Fall Book Sale to September 16 through 20.

Springfield and Greene County officials issued new orders Thursday outlining plans to reopen most businesses and organizations starting Monday when previous stay-at-home orders to prevent the spread of coronavirus are set to expire.

Ken McClure, mayor of Springfield, said in a news conference that while most businesses reopen Monday, May 4, occupancy limits will remain in place.

The topic of a special city council meeting Wednesday night, April 29, in Joplin will be the city’s plan for response and recovery.

The meeting starts at 6 at Joplin City Hall via teleconferencing.  Joplin currently has a Stay at Home Order that’s set to expire Sunday night at 11:59. 

Update:  The library district says that "due to additional steps required for reopening, drive-through window service will resume at five Springfield-Greene County Libraries at 7:30 a.m. Thursday, May 7, three days later than previously announced.   

The Springfield-Greene County Library is taking a step toward re-opening.  Starting Monday, May 4, five branches will resume drive-through window service.

Thunderstorms will move into southwest Missouri and northern Arkansas late Tuesday.  Justin Titus, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Springfield, said some could be severe.

The Taney County Health Department said it’s offering 400 free COVID-19 tests through Wednesday, April 29, for anyone that wants one.  The testing is for Stone and Taney County residents only, and pre-registration is required at redcap.link/mocovidcctesting

The tests are part of a point-in-time COVID-19 count by the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services.

As part of our ongoing series Making a Difference, produced in cooperation with the Community Foundation of the Ozarks, we present another Conversation on Collaboration.  Today, we look at collaborative solutions put forth by the CFO, The United Way of the Ozarks, and the Community Partnership of the Ozarks, to support local and regional COVID-19 coronavirus relief efforts.

Brian Fogle is president of the Community Foundation Of The Ozarks.

City Utilities customers who don't pay their bills won't have their services cut off until June 1.

According to CU, customers who are experiencing financial difficulty are asked to contact customer service at 417-863-9000 to make payment arrangements to avoid late payment charges.

The customer lobby at 301 E. Central remains until further notice.  If you have questions, call 863-9000 or go to cityutilities.net.  CU officials say call volume has increased, so customers should be patient.

For this week’s “Coronavirus Edition” of “Arts News,” we checked in with Rick Dines, Managing Artistic Director of Springfield Contemporary Theatre, to hear how SCT is weathering the stay-at-home order.            

Local hotel owners are being asked to offer rates of $150 a week per unit for up to four weeks to homeless individuals and families.

The Community Partnership of the Ozarks’ COVID-19 Task Force is calling the effort the Merciful Nights Campaign.  They’re also asking people to donate to a fund to help house the homeless in Greene County during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The goal is to provide 150 hotel rooms for 150 households that are “hyper-vulnerable” to contracting COVID-19.

Governor Mike Parson announced this week that an N95 respirator decontamination system is coming to Missouri next week.  But a local hospital has been disinfecting masks for awhile now.  They’re available for use if new personal protective equipment runs out.

According to a news release from Mercy Springfield, the healthsystem has been collecting masks from its co-workers for weeks.  They’re sent to the health systems locations in Springfield and St. Louis to be disinfected with equipment called Altapure.  Mercy has used the system for years to disinfect patient rooms. 

The Missouri State Auditor’s Office has begun an audit of the City of Clever.  Residents of the town requested the audit through the petition process.  The audit will also include the Clever Municipal Court, according to the auditor's office.

Up to now, the Department of Health and Senior Services has allowed only symptomatic close contacts of a suspected COVID-19 patient or a lab-confirmed patient and symptomatic healthcare workers and first responders to be tested, according to a news release. 

DHSS has now approved state testing for symptomatic residents of congregate living facilities whose residents are at higher risk for poor outcomes; symptomatic hospitalized patients who have symptoms compatible with COVID-19; and symptomatic patients who are at high risk for negative health outcomes from the illness.

The Missouri Department of Transportation has a third option for a new interchange at U.S. Route 60/Missouri Route 125 near Rogersville.  The concept was developed through working with the Rogersville community, according to MODOT.

The Battelle Critical Care Decontamination system will be available starting next week at 13 drop-off and pick-up sites in Missouri.

The system uses a process of vapor phase hydrogen peroxide to decontaminate N95 masks.  Missouri Governor Mike Parson said Personal Protective Equipment can be reused up to 20 times.

"Through this system we will have the maximum capacity to decontaminate up to 80,000 N95 masks per day if needed," said Parson.

Hospitals, healthcare providers and first responder agencies will be able to use the new service at no cost.

A new tool developed by Google will be used in Missouri to help health care workers find personal protective equipment.

It’s a joint effort between the state and the Missouri Hospital Association, according to the governor’s office.  It connects health care providers with Missouri manufacturers and suppliers of PPE.

Manufacturers of PPE are invited to register in the system. 

CoxHealth has joined a national clinical trial to learn how convalescent plasma might help treat patients suffering from COVID-19. And it’s treating its first patient right now.  The trial was initiated by the Mayo Clinic.

Dr. Anne Hayes, a pathologist at CoxHealth, said in a news release she hopes that what they learn through the trials will help them “develop treatment protocols to make a big difference in the months ahead.”

Researchers hope the antibodies in the plasma of recovered patients will help those battling severe or life-threatening cases of COVID-19.

Students taking classes at Ozarks Technical Community College this summer are eligible for a new scholarship.  The college is offering $100,000 in scholarships for students impacted by COVID-19. 

OTC will give out 200 scholarships of $500 each on a first-come, first-served basis for the summer session, which starts June 1.

They’re available to current OTC students as well as students from another college whose semester was interrupted by the pandemic.

These criteria must be met to be eligible:

The City of Nixa has extended its stay-at-home order through May 3.  But non-essential businesses may now open up in a limited capacity.

Non-essential businesses must take orders by phone, online or curbside pick-up or drop-off.  Customers are not allowed to enter the business.  And they must maintain the CDC social distancing and cleaning guidelines, including the use of personal protective equipment for employees.

Kids who owed money on their student lunch account, in one Ozarks school district, no longer have to pay it back.  Tuesday, the Ozark Utopia Club gave $2000 to the Ozark School District to pay off all school meal balances.

Utopia Club president, Kay Johnson, says they thought that would be a good way to spend some of their money.  Now, she said in a news release, kids can start out the school year in the fall debt-free.

Both Johnson and the club’s treasurer, Sandy McKee, are retired teachers.

It could get easier to develop future tiny home communities, such as Eden Village, in Springfield.  City Council’s Plans and Policies Committee is working on developing standards that address the placement of tiny homes.

And, according to a news release, Eden Village and the City of Springfield have resolved the claims filed by the nonprofit organization last year related to development of property on W. Division.

Governor Mike Parson has ordered that U.S. and Missouri flags be flown at half-staff at all government buildings in Cass, Clay, Jackson, and Platte counties and at fire houses across the state Wednesday.  It’s in honor of Kansas City Fire Department EMT Billy Birmingham.

He also ordered that U.S. and Missouri flags to be flown at half-staff at the Fire Fighters Memorial of Missouri in Kingdom City.

KSMU has been awarded the 2020 Missouri Broadcasters Association First Place Awards for both Feature Reporting and Documentary/Public Affairs categories, the MBA Announced Tuesday afternoon.

Additionally, longtime KSMU arts and music host, Randy Stewart, was awarded a Certificate of Merit from MBA for his program, “Arts News with Randy Stewart” and his unique hosting contributions in classical and arts programming to the Ozarks region for over four decades.

Springfield and Greene County officials have eased restrictions on some businesses in what they are calling a "half step" toward transitioning back to a more regular way of life. 

At the same time, both the city and county have extended their separate Stay at Home orders until 11:59 p.m. on May 3.   Previously, the orders were set to run through April 24.

People upset with stay at home orders issued to slow the spread of the coronavirus are protesting.

A rally in Kansas City’s Country Club Plaza Monday drew between 75 and 100 people.  People waved signs and U.S. flags.

A group called Reopen Missouri plans a rally today at noon at the Missouri Capitol Building.  And a Facebook group called Reopen Springfield Missouri is planning a rally at noon today on Park Central Square.

But health experts say having people in close contact is the fuel that COVID-19 needs to spread.

Missouri Governor Mike Parson is hopeful the state will be able to start moving away from stay at home orders soon.

In his Monday press briefing, Parson said they’re seeing signs in data that Missouri is “slowing the course.” 

"We are cautiously optimistic that we are beginning to stabilize, and we are preparing to reopen Missouri for business," said Parson.

A team is in place to determine how best to do that, and Parson said that decisions will be data-driven.