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story.lead_photo.caption The Harry S. Truman State Office building in Jefferson City is seen on Friday, May 22, 2020. Photo by Liv Paggiarino / Fulton Sun.

One in four state employees have contracted COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic, and the number of cases continues to climb.

Statewide, 10,390 state employees in Missouri have contracted the virus so far. With more than 41,000 staff members throughout the state, that's roughly 25 percent that have tested positive for COVID-19.

Last week, state government offices in Cole County reported 80 new COVID-19 cases among employees, 34 of which were at the Truman Building.

The Truman Building houses more than 2,100 staff members from a variety of state agencies.

The Office of Administration was also informed last week a state employee died as a result of contracting COVID-19, OA Communications Director Chris Moreland said.

Moreland said 37 state employees have died since OA began tracking cases in March 2020.

He said most new COVID-19 cases were confined to a particular location, and OA is working with staff to identify close contacts and provide additional testing opportunities.

"Since we initially saw an increase in COVID-19 cases in Cole County and surrounding areas earlier this summer, and out of an abundance of caution to enhance the safety of our workforce, we have continued to offer free voluntary COVID-19 testing for state team members working in the Jefferson City area," Moreland said. "The testing site was first initiated on July 2 and will continue to be operational Monday through Friday for the foreseeable future."

Moreland said state agencies recommend employees get tested if they notice symptoms and recommend employees get the vaccine.

"We strongly encourage our state team members who have not yet received the vaccine to get vaccinated as a COVID-19 vaccine remains by far the most effective way to prevent a serious illness from the virus," Moreland said.

State employees are not required to disclose their vaccination status to their employer, which makes it difficult for state agencies or OA to track the percentage of state employees who are vaccinated.

By mid-August, however, at least 35 percent of the state workforce was vaccinated through state-sponsored events.

Parson ordered state employees to return to work in-person May 17 after many began working remotely at the start of the pandemic.

State agencies are working with the Office of Administration and the Governor's Office to approve a standardized long-term distributed work policy for state employees.

Moreland said the planning is unrelated to COVID-19 and is still a work in progress.

Kelli Jones, a spokesperson for the Governor's Office, said distributed team policy planning has been going on for several months and will likely only affect a few select employees around the state.

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