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Sara Dingmann
By Sara Dingmann May 13, 2020

Riggs needed more digging on the Missouri counties with COVID-19 cases

If Your Time is short

  • 82% of the state’s counties had at least one case by the time Riggs made his claim. 

While Missouri’s stay-at-home order has expired, cases have been closely monitored to see whether the state is flattening the curve. Some cities, like Columbia and St. Louis, have extended their stay-at-home regulations.

In a reflection of how the state has been responding to the pandemic, state House Rep. Louis Riggs, R-Hannibal, said on April 21: "Thankfully, we have seen success to date, as nearly half of our counties have not reported positive cases."

Riggs’ estimate was more than a little off.

Cases by county

Data from the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services on that day show 20 counties without any positive cases, or 18% of 114 counties. The state passed the halfway mark three weeks earlier, on March 30. 

Riggs admitted that his error resulted from a quick glance over the department’s map showing the breakdown of cases by county. If a county has between one and six cases it has a light tan color, easy to confuse with the white color of the counties without any cases. 

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Riggs said what he should have said was, "nearly 20% with zero cases and half with less than 10," which would be accurate.  

As of May 11, 15 counties have not reported any cases of COVID-19. 

Our ruling

Riggs said on April 21, "nearly half of our counties have not reported positive cases." Half would be a sharp rounding up from 18%. 

Because Riggs’ estimate included counties that did not fall into the correct category we rate his claim False.

Our Sources

The Missouri Times, "Opinion: Pandemics and Freedom — finding a balance," April 21, 2020

Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, "COVID-19 Outbreak," March 30, 2020

Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, "COVID-19 Outbreak," March 31, 2020

Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, "COVID-19 Outbreak," Accessed May 5, 2020

Missouri Governor, "Governor Parson Announces First Phase of "Show Me Strong Recovery" Plan to Begin May 4," April, 27

Email exchange with Louis Riggs, May 4-5, 2020

Email exchange with Lisa Cox for the Department of Health and Senior Services, May 4

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Riggs needed more digging on the Missouri counties with COVID-19 cases

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