COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)
Bars and restaurants in Boone County will no longer have to close early starting Thursday.
Columbia/Boone County Department of Health and Human Services issued a modified coronavirus health order Monday that removes the requirements that restaurants that serve alcohol and bars close early. The modified order also increased the limit on gatherings from 20 to 50 people and increased event attendance to 50% of the venue's capacity or 200 people.
The order expires March 24.
Browning said in a news release introducing the modified order that Boone County continues to see a decrease in the number of COVID-19 infections and the five-day rolling average of new cases has dropped significantly. That average was at 17 on Sunday -- down 68% since Feb. 7, according to the release.
"We remain hopeful that infections will continue on the decline with the modifications to the Health Order, but it’s important for our community to continue with the COVID protocols-- social distancing, masking and handwashing-- that have shown to be effective in controlling the spread of COVID-19," Browning said.
Modifications to the order include:
- All gatherings or gathering places are limited to 50 people, including both public and private gatherings, unless otherwise specified in the Order. Social distancing requirements and/or face mask requirements must be observed.
- Restaurants, bars and entertainment venues may resume normal operating hours, subject to the operational requirements set forth in the order. (Closing time was midnight in the previous order.)
- Bar service and buffet service are allowed with social distancing and mask requirements. Patrons are required to wear masks when not seated. Bar and buffet service had been prohibited in previous orders.
- Entertainment facilities are limited to 200 individuals and must get an operations plan approved by the health director. The previous order set the limit at 100.
- Capacity at child entertainment facilities and arcades will be limited to 100 children with the total capacity limited to 200 individuals. An operational plan is required. The previous order listed 50 children and 100 total individuals.
- Indoor sports are limited to 50% of their spectator capacity or 100 people. Outdoor sports are limited to 50% or 200 people.
- Social distancing is required for personal care services. Businesses must follow mask requirements except when necessary to provide services for which social distancing or a mask are not possible.
The health department said updated business and sports guidance will be released by the end of the week.
Sara Humm with the health department said the numbers like active case numbers look really good to lift restrictions and have remained low for a considerable amount of time.
"We had a pretty rough fall. November we saw some really high numbers but about since the end of December or so we've seen a lot lower positive case numbers which is really encouraging," she said.
She also said hospitals are doing well and contact tracers are able to keep up with the workload, something they were not able to do during the height of the pandemic.
With the new capacity limits Humm said it will be even more important people wear masks and social distance because data shows those are important factors to preventing the spread of COVID-19.
Humm said the health department and director Stephanie Browning has had conversations with local business owners to hear their concerns and thoughts on the local restrictions.
"That's part of what's taken into consideration too is how can we make sure we're supporting our local businesses while also taking the steps needed to keep our community safe," she said.
Jame Kanne owns 9th Street Public House in downtown Columbia. He has previously said increased hours would benefit local businesses, especially bars and restaurants.
"I will say the midnight, which was a gift that we did not expect, changed the game overnight to the point where I would say we almost doubled in sales," he said.
He said the extra time would allow businesses to decide whether to stay open later and allow them the opportunity to make more money.
He did say businesses like bars will have to continue to tell people to wear their masks and follow guidelines as they stay open later.
Kanne said he was happy bar services could resume and said he thought customers would be happy as well.
"That's what we do. We want people sitting at the bar. That's why we built it," he said.
Kanne said he expects to see more entertainment in Columbia when the changes take effect. He said some places that have been closed may reopen because the looser restrictions would allow them to do, in some capacity, what they did before the pandemic.
Kanne said his staff still needed to discuss what they would change under the new order.
"Anything that gives us a chance, advantage, to do better is worth adjusting to, so this gives us opportunity to hire employees, add more shifts, more hours to our current employees, things like that," he said.