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Coronavirus

City and health officials discuss possible guidance for Columbia’s reopening

COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)

The Columbia city council met Monday night to discuss several topics related to COVID-19, including guidance on reopening the city.

Stephanie Browning, director of Columbia/Boone County Public Health and Human Services, provided an update on COVID-19 to the council.

The county's stay-at-home order is set to expire at 8 a.m. on Friday.

You can watch playback of the council meeting in the media player below.

Council members and Browning discussed recommendations that businesses and consumers could take part in once the order is lifted.

"I don’t think we’re ever going to be able to say we can’t have any cases," Browning said. "(Keep) that number down as low as possible. Keep that going, no big spikes.

During the meeting, Browning stated there are four standards that need to be sustained in order to move away from the stay-at-home order:

  • Sustain reduction in new COVID-19 cases for a two-week period.
  • Hospitals being able to serve everyone in the region with adequate beds, medical equipment and supplies.
  • Test kits available for those with symptoms -- or those who are at a high risk of injury from coronavirus.
  • Systems in place for robust case investigation, rapid isolation and contact tracing. 

Council members asked where Columbia stood on the requirements.

"Boone County has had a sustained reduction," Browning said."So we are on a good path for that. Our hospitals can serve everyone in the region without a doubt. Testing is available here -- it’s growing and we have an outstanding public health department. Our systems are pretty good at tracing."

Browning thinks that the Columbia and Boone County stay-at-home orders will be extended to match Gov. Mike Parson's statewide order, which is in place through May 3.

Some council members asked what would happen after the orders expire and the COVID-19 curve remains flat.

Browning said that a phased approach is being worked on between health departments to reopen the city and county. She said that Columbia could slowly reopen, look at the curve, and continue with that process, all the while making sure the curve is flat. 

She said some small businesses could start to reopen first.

"Give them some opportunities to do curbside retail that would allow some small businesses to come back while remaining social distancing within those environments," Browning said.

Browning said the next step could be increasing the limit on the number of people allowed per gathering.

During the meeting, council members asked if requiring the use of masks for customers and employees was something the health department was looking into.

"A mask can’t substitute for social distancing," Browning said. 'We know that when people wear masks they don’t put them on right, or take them off right and fidget with them."

Mayor Treece agreed that gradually reopening Columbia in the future would be the best option to preserve public health.

"I'm wondering if it wouldn't be smart to use the next week or two weeks here to really put those protections in place," Treece said. "We can lift the restrictions later to really make sure that businesses, especially those non-essential businesses that haven't been operating in the last couple weeks, have safety procedures and plans in place."

Browning stated that the health department could recommend additional guidance for residents to follow.

"I think that most people are aware that that the extra precautions need to be taken," Ward 5 Council Member Matt Pitzer said. "They're willing to do that as long as they know what the plan is and what the strategy is."

Pitzer stated that if city leaders and health officials could discuss as much detail as possible what guidance should be taken, he believes there would be a lot of community support and buy-in for a strategy like that.

The Southern Rose, a small non-essential Columbia business, has been closed nearly 30 days due to the city and county stay-at-home orders.

The Southern Rose owner Mackenzie Knierim said if officials realize that I think any small business owner would agree that right now they would do just about anything to allow for even a minimal amount of foot traffic.

"If they said you can reopen less than 10 people in your store and your employees must wear a mask," Knierim said. "We would jump through that and do it tomorrow.

Whether or not employees wear masks is up to the discretion of the employees, said Knierim.

When allowed to reopen The Southern Rose will allow limited hours of shopping leaving time slots available for customers to shop and still feel safe.

Knierim said The Southern Rose is ready to be able to have a little bit more interaction and a little more flexibility with what they are able to do.

Business / Columbia / Columbia City Government / Columbia Video / Mid-Missouri Business / News / Top Stories / Video
Amber Tabeling

Amber Tabeling

Amber joined the ABC 17 News team as a multimedia journalist in December 2019. She was a student-athlete at Parkland College and Missouri Valley College. She hails from a small town in Illinois.

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