As the end of Gov. Mike Parson’s statewide stay-at-home order gets closer, plans are being announced by the Pettis County Health Center as to when Pettis County will reopen.
The public health order from Dr. Randall Williams, Director of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, expires Sunday and sets general standards for reopening businesses in Missouri.
“An important part of the (state) public health order is that counties have the authority to make the standards more stringent than the state standards,” Pettis County Health Center Administrator JoAnn Martin told the Democrat via email Wednesday afternoon. “For Pettis County, we are still seeing an increase in cases and we are going to move more slowly than the other parts of the state.”
The basic guidance requires retail businesses to limit the number of individuals who may be in the building based upon the size of the building or the occupancy limit.
The health center has posted requirements for hair salons, barbershops and tattoo shops on its website. The requirements for food establishments will be posted by Friday.
Local businesses are providing their specific reopening plans to the health center. According to Martin, there is a checklist of steps and businesses must be able to tell the health center how those steps will be met. The plans will be reviewed and any suggestions for improvement will be shared.
She said she hopes the level of positive cases will allow restaurants to reopen with limited seating around the third week in May. The date for restaurants to reopen will be announced on the health center’s website.
“A lot will depend on what our case count looks like,” Martin commented. “At this time, all projected dates for reopening may be revised if there is a change in what the distribution of cases in the county looks like.”
There will still be a limit to the number of people who can gather in a location, Martin noted.
“Mass gatherings are still not permitted although some events that had been prohibited may be permitted if the event can maintain a 6-foot distance among participants,” Martin explained. “Event organizers or business owners/managers are responsible for maintaining the social distance.”
Martin added if there is an increase in county cases, more strict rules will need to be re-implemented.
Customers will also have guidelines they are asked to follow. Businesses are posting occupation limits, having one-way aisles, requesting customers to wear masks, placing markers for where people can wait, and asking people to separate.
“Everyone needs to follow the signs and guidance of employees to keep everyone as safe as possible,” Martin said.
Martin explained what will happen if there are violations of the established rules.
“The worst outcome would be a significant increase in the number of cases which would require stricter rules to be re-implemented,” Martin said. “For those businesses that refuse to follow the occupancy limits, there are procedures in place to notify the community that a business is not following the limits and if the business refuses to comply, then the situation will be addressed in accordance with the legal process available by law.”
The health center reported Wednesday there are 35 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Pettis County. Six people have been released from isolation. One person remains hospitalized, according to a post on the health center’s Facebook page. The remaining individuals are recovering at home and continue to be monitored by health center staff.
The number of confirmed cases or cases the health center is following will affect the reopening date.
“We are using our local data to guide decision making,” Martin commented. “Our current cases reflect exposure that happened two to 14 days prior to the individual becoming ill and possibly longer depending upon how long an ill person waited to be tested. We watch the trends carefully and try to predict what will be happening in the next 14 days.”
All of Pettis County remains under the same guidelines. This includes establishments and residents in the City of Sedalia and surrounding townships within Pettis County.
“According to the statutes, if a city does not have an established health department, then the public health authority resides with the recognized local public health agency for the county,” Martin said. “There are no other recognized health departments in the county, so the Pettis County Health Center remains the public health authority for the county.”
Along with following state and county guidelines, Martin also emphasized the importance of wearing a face mask in public.
“Wearing a mask does not indicate living in fear, but rather a real understanding that this is something that everyone can do to protect others,” Martin said. “…wearing a mask decreases the spread of the virus because if the virus is not being put out into the environment, then the virus cannot infect others. We really need to push this point to every possible place.”
On Wednesday, a total of 7,415 cases were reported statewide. There have been 318 reported deaths in Missouri.