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Boone County health director lays out three-month plan for reopening


The Boone County health department director laid out a three-month plan for reopening the county during Monday's Columbia City Council meeting.

County health director Stephanie Browning said she feels confident that the county can move forward with the next phase of reopening on May 26.

Watch a replay of the health director's COVID-19 presentation below

Part of the next phase includes increasing capacity at certain businesses from 25 percent to 50 percent if social distancing is in place. Browning added that places like movie theaters, entertainment venues and bars without counter service could also reopen.

Browning said the 50 percent capacity limits could be lifted as soon as June 23 with social distancing still in place.

During her presentation of the three-month plan, Browning said child care and day camps could also increase their capacity. Starting May 26, those businesses could move from 10 children and staff in a stable group to 25 children and staff through June 22. Then those groups could increase depending on the needs of the industry.

Browning said personal care services could also increase their capacity from 10 customers and staff to 25 or 50 percent capacity, whichever is less. Then in late July personal care services could increase their capacity to what could be allowed while still adhering to social distancing. She added that masks though would still be required.

Also included in the plan were plans for reopening pools and allowing larger public gatherings. Browning said attended pools could reopen while following social distancing, but unattended pools would have to limit capacity to 25 or fewer people.

Public gatherings could allow up to 50 people in June, then 100 people in July and up to 250 people in August. Browning said public gatherings include events where people who don't know each other come together. She said those types of events make contact tracing of COVID-19 more difficult.

The presentation also including reintroducing sports over the summer. Browning said non-contact sports could start as soon as May 26, but spectator areas will be under the public gathering limits for the county.

She said contact sports could start with non-contact practices on May 26 before moving to contact practices in stable groups at the end of June and finally full contact sports at the end on July.

Browning urged long-term care facilities to continue not allowing visitors through August 24 in an effort to protect those populations. She also urged everyone to continue wearing masks in public, increasing hand hygiene and practicing social distancing.

ABC 17 News asked three local businesses what their thoughts were regarding Director Browning’s new three month plan. All three businesses said this was a positive step compared to the previous orders but they are concerned about what may happen if cases increase. 

Mackenzie Knierim, owner of Southern Rose said this is good for businesses, but now she believes the next step will be prolonging social distancing and continue keeping our numbers down in Boone County.

Knierim said this plan will open up more opportunities for her business to host events but now they are working to be more creative while adjusting to the reopening regulations. 

“We can still have events of some nature," Knierim said. "Without encouraging like a ton of people to gather, we still want to be cautious and even though everything is opening up trying to do our part and keeping people socially distance as much as possible.”

Paul Prevo owner of Tiger Tots child care said having the three-month plan makes planning for the future of child care and other businesses easier. 

“Before there was no end date," Prevo said. "There was no way you could potentially plan, no matter what business or field you were in. Now at least there are these steps that we're looking at. So that's definitely a positive.”

Edward Baker with the Holiday Inn Executive Center said he’s hopeful the plan works out as it gives his business a better direction moving forward by allowing more than 10 people in one of his large event rooms. 

“They are working with us on some plans on special groups that we've got coming," Baker said. "So we can do social distancing. I think there's a real effort there to compromise and I do really do appreciate it.”

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Brittany Wiley

Brittany Wiley joined ABC 17 News in December 2018 as a full-time reporter. She anchors weekend morning broadcasts and reports in the early evening during the week.

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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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