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Blunt visits rural areas to advocate for broadband expansion and vaccines

 Sen. Roy Blunt speaks with economic development officials in Salem as part of a tour around south central Missouri to rural communities.
Jonathan Ahl
St. Louis Public Radio
Sen. Roy Blunt speaks with economic development officials in Salem as part of a tour around south central Missouri to rural communities.

SALEM — U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt met with economic development and health care officials around south-central Missouri on Thursday, and said two common themes were broadband access and the coronavirus pandemic.

Blunt said the federal government needs to increase its support for expansion of high-speed internet into rural locations.

“It seems to me that the last couple years has created more urgency to get there than we might have had before all of the different dynamics of COVID,” Blunt said. “Going to the doctor online or attending school virtually became a necessity, and not everyone could do it.”

Blunt was one of 17 Republican senators who joined the Democratic majority in voting for an infrastructure bill still being debated that would spend $65 billion on rural internet expansion.

On the topic of the COVID vaccine, Blunt reiterated his long-standing advocacy for people to get vaccinated.

“It really is an amazing thing, and it’s the best protection we have,” Blunt said.

But Blunt also said he continues to oppose a federal vaccination mandate of any kind.

“Missourians don’t want to be told what to do,” he said.

Blunt said the best way to increase rural counties' low vaccination rates is to have trusted sources tell personal stories of what happened to their families — "because somebody didn’t realize until it was too late that there is a better way to take care of themselves.”

While Blunt opposes federal mandates, he does support the right of local governmental bodies like school boards to put mask mandates in place or require vaccines for employees.

Blunt made stops in Mountain Grove, Houston, Salem, Cuba and Potosi.

Follow Jonathan on Twitter: @JonathanAhl

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Jonathan is the General Manager of Tri States Public radio. His duties include but are not limited to, managing all facets of the station, from programming to finances to operations. Jonathan grew up in the south suburbs of Chicago. He has a B.A in music theory and composition from WIU and a M.A in Public Affairs Reporting from The University of Illinois at Springfield. Jonathan began his journey in radio as a student worker at WIUM. While in school Jonathan needed a summer job on campus. He heard WIUM was hiring, and put his bid in. Jonathan was welcomed on the team and was very excited to be using his music degree. He had also always been interested in news and public radio. He soon learned he was a much better reporter than a musician and his career was born. While at WIUM, Jonathan hosted classical music, completed operations and production work, was a news reporter and anchor, and served as the stage manager for Rural Route 3. Jonathan then went to on to WIUS in Springfield where he was a news anchor and reporter covering the state legislature for Illinois Public Radio. After a brief stint in commercial radio and TV, Jonathan joined WCBU in Peoria, first in operations then as a news reporter and for the last ten years of his time there he served as the News Director. Jonathan’s last job before returning to Tri States Public Radio was as the News Director/ Co-Director of Content for Iowa Public Radio. During Jonathan’s off time he enjoys distance running, playing competitive Scrabble, rooting for Chicago Cubs, listening to all kinds of music and reading as much as he can. He lives in Macomb with his wife Anita and children Tommy and Lily.