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Boone County business owner sues health director over COVID-19-related restrictions

Tiger Tots Child Care
ABC 17 News
Tiger Tots Child Care

COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)

A Boone County daycare owner sued the area health director Monday over local COVID-19 regulations on businesses, asking a judge to put an end to those restrictions.

Paul Prevo, owner of Tiger Tots Child Development Center, filed a request for a temporary restraining order or an injunction Monday in Boone County court. Prevo is asking a judge to put a stop to the local order, either permanently or while the lawsuit plays out, claiming the county's health department director does not have the authority to restrict healthy residents' movement or order businesses to close.

Prevo's lawyer, Matt Woods, also argues that the current situation in Boone County is not an emergency because only five COVID-19 cases are active.

Columbia/Boone County health director Stephanie Browning put in place stricter guidelines than the state's health order on April 30. Her order kept closed entertainment venues such as movie theaters and bowling alleys, while also putting limits on the number of people inside restaurants and personal care facilities like salons.

Browning said a growing number of cases in nearby counties had her worried that Boone County could see a flare-up of new cases if it rolled back its order.

A state stay-at-home order was replaced with a reopening order last week. The reopening order Prevo is challenging took the place of a local reopening order.

Prevo's lawsuit notes that the state's reopening order, signed by Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services Director Randall Williams, says daycares cannot be restricted as long as they work within CDC guidelines meant to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus. However, Browning's order requires daycares to keep children in unchanging groups of 10 or fewer, which Prevo argues is not part of those guidelines.

Under state law, restrictions in conflict with state rules are invalid, Woods argues.

Woods also argues the restrictions violate the U.S. Constitution.

The Open Columbia Coalition wrote a letter to Browning and other government leaders about the county's restrictions last Tuesday. Attorney Matt Woods said the businesses were ready to follow the state's rolled back order, which allowed for more businesses to re-open. Woods said the slow growth of cases in Boone County doesn't justify the restrictions.

The group had demanded a meeting with Columbia and Boone County officials including Browning last week but the meeting did not materialize. Columbia City Attorney Nancy Thompson cited the short week created by the Truman Day holiday on Friday for the failure to get together.

ABC17 reached out to both Prevo and Woods but neither were immediately available.

A spokesperson for the City of Columbia said it does not comment on pending lawsuits after ABC17 reached out to Browning and the health department.

Boone / Columbia / Coronavirus / Email Alert – Breaking News / Mid-Missouri Business / Top Stories

Lucas Geisler

Lucas Geisler anchors the 5 p.m. show for ABC 17 News and reports on the latest news around mid-Missouri at 9 and 10 p.m.

Connor Hirsch

Connor Hirsch reports for the weekday night shows, as well as Sunday nights.

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Matthew Sanders

Matthew Sanders is the digital content director at ABC 17 News.

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