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Boone County removes occupancy limits in newest coronavirus health order


Boone County officials have removed occupancy limits for gatherings and group sizes will no longer be limited at bars and restaurants under a new health order that takes effect Wednesday.

The new order will expire April 14.

The Columbia/Boone County Department of Public Health and Human Services announced the order in a news release Monday. The old limit of 50% capacity for large gatherings held at businesses will go away under the new order, as will the 200-people maximum at entertainment venues.

The limit of 10 patrons per group at restaurants and bars is also going away.

However, masks and social distancing will still be required.

Even though the new health order doesn't have any limits on capacity for entertainment venues, not all venues are able to take advantage of this restriction being lifted due to the smaller size of some venues and six feet of social distancing still being mandatory for tables.

Venue Director of The Blue Note and Rose Music Hall, Mike Nolan said the venue won't really see any change in capacity for shows.

"It still kind of keeps us at the capacities we've been operating at," Nolan said. "Just given the amount of space that we have and that's pretty much maxed out on distancing so we're gonna be at that capacity until something changes with distancing."

Nolan said The Blue Note can currently hold 154 people with the health order requirements.

Another entertainment company, We Always Swing Jazz Series says they won't to be able to take advantage of the new entertainment venue restriction being lifted either, due to their small venue size of playing shows at places like Murry's.

"I'm glad things are improving and we're ready to get back to normal," Josh Chittum, Assistant Director of We Always Swing Jazz Series said. "We wanna be safe and we wanna be doing the right thing so although the ordinance is changing...I think it's a really good thing but it doesn't really affect us really all that much."

Chittum said the company is currently playing shows at a very limited capacity.

In the new health order, group size at tables at businesses are no longer restricted. The previous order restricted group size to a maximum of 10 people per table.

Boone County's case rates remain relatively low, following a statewide trend after hitting high marks in the fall and winter. More than 27% of the state's residents have received their first doses of coronavirus vaccine, the state reports. New case averages are hovering below 20.

"We're feeling so much better about where we are at now," Sara Humm of the Columbia/Boone County Health Department said.

Humm said Boone County has plateaued in COVID-19 cases with averaging anywhere from 15-20 cases a day.

Humm said when considering to modify a health order, the department takes a few things into consideration.

"We look at our positivity rates of new positive COVID cases, [we] are looking at how are hospitals are doing, how our case investigators and contact tracers are able to keep up with the workload," Humm said. "Now with the vaccines coming into the fold, [and] with the rollout of the many folks in our community have received the vaccine."

In a news release, health director Stephanie Browning said the county has not experienced any recent spikes in cases but cautioned residents to keep wearing masks and using social distance.

Health officials have been gradually easing restrictions over several weeks. The last order allowed bars and restaurants to operate with normal hours after months of having to close early. That order also resumed bar and buffet service.

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Matthew Sanders

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


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