Missouri Gov. Mike Parson has signed an executive order to begin mobilizing the Missouri National Guard to assist in the state's COVID-19 response efforts.

“The COVID-19 crisis is constantly developing and changing, but we are taking steps each and every day to slow the spread and protect public health and safety,” the governor said in a statement. “Mobilizing the National Guard will help us provide more immediate resources to our citizens and enhance Missouri’s ability to overcome this global pandemic."

Parson made the decision after conferring with the state emergency management team, including officials from the Missouri Department of Public Safety, Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, and the State Emergency Management Agency, the governor's office said in a news release.

The guard is providing specialized health and safety training to all personnel that are being mobilized in addition to guidance that all soldiers, airmen and civilians have already received from the Department of Defense and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“The National Guard is ready and poised to assist local and state civilian authorities in response to COVID-19,” Brigadier General Levon Cumpton said in a statement. “The guard has flexibility in utilizing resources and deploying them around the state where they are most appropriate.”

Missouri was reporting 502 positive COVID-19 cases and eight deaths as of Thursday afternoon. A ninth death was reported later Thursday by St. Louis County officials.

This is a developing story and will be updated.

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