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story.lead_photo.caption People stand in a hallway at the Missouri State Capitol on April 4, 2018. Photo by News Tribune

Saying they are taking precautions in light of the coronavirus, the leaders of the Missouri Senate announced Thursday that they will adjourn a week early for the planned legislative break.

In a press release, this decision was made by Senate President Pro-Tem Dave Schatz (R-Sullivan), Senate Majority Floor Leader Caleb Rowden (R-Columbia), and Senate Minority Floor Leader John Rizzo (D-Independence) in consultation with Missouri House leaders. House Speaker Elijah Haahr (R-Springfield) announced house members will expedite the ongoing appropriations process and will pass a budget next week. Passing a budget is the one Constitutional obligation of the General Assembly.

For more news about the COVID-19 coronavirus, access the News Tribune's Health section.

"Hundreds of lawmakers from across Missouri and thousands of visitors from around the country descend on the State Capitol each week in Jefferson City," the press release read. "Much like large sporting events, college campuses, and other busy public places, the capitol experiences the kind of close contact and frequent travel that would unnecessarily exacerbate the spread of coronavirus."

"A number of our members, staff, and their families fall into populations that are at greater risk due to the coronavirus," said Senator Schatz. "We asked legislators if there was anything so pressing that it required us to be here now, while it is unclear what kind of viral exposure we may have already had, and the answer was 'no.' As a result we will be pausing nonessential legislative activity in order to protect the people who work in the Capitol and to ensure we will have a quorum when we return from break to complete the budget."

As staff compete their work on Thursday, Schatz said the senate and senators' offices will close and remain closed through March 29. Steps have been taken to ensure offices have secure remote access to Ssnate phones, emails, and network resources. Schatz also said that during the closure, employees are expected to work from home and maintain regular business hours. "Missourians will continue to have phone and email access to their senators and Senators' staff," Schatz added.

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