COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)
Columbia Mayor Brian Treece said Monday that the city and county coronavirus health orders will expire May 12 and will not be replaced, saying now is the right time to "turn back the dial" on restrictions.
Treece cited low levels of new coronavirus case levels and high rates of vaccination during a news conference Monday at Columbia City Hall. New cases are staying steady but low in Boone County. The five-day average of new daily cases has remained at about 10 for the past week. Active cases are below 100.
The county is also top in the state for the percentage of its population having at least one coronavirus shot – 44.3%.
"Throughout the pandemic you’ve heard me say that we will follow the data and the science and the most recent data show me that trends are moving in the right direction," Treece said.
Treece cautioned, however, that the pandemic is still happening and that new health orders could be put in place if the numbers start trending upward. A spike in cases could mean reimposing some restrictions.
Watch a replay of the news conference in the player below.
Masks and social distancing will still be required in city buildings, on city property and in mass transit, Treece said.
Columbia/Boone County health director Stephanie Browning said the rate of new cases has stayed low over the last 14 days. She said the high vaccination rate in Boone County's older population is a sign of significant progress but lagging rates in younger populations are troubling.
Browning said the health department's role in fighting the pandemic won't end with the end of orders. The department will continue to make recommendations for businesses and individuals to keep virus levels low, she said.
"Every step we have taken during this pandemic has been about one thing -- reducing the harmful impact of COVID-19," Browning said. "That does not change as we move into this next phase."
Browning said wearing masks, using social distance and avoiding large gatherings are still the best ways to keep safe.
Boone County Presiding Commissioner Dan Atwill said reports of soaring cases and deaths in India and Brazil show the pandemic is not over.
The current order expires at noon on May 12. The order requires people to wear masks where social distancing is not possible and in restaurants when they're not seated. The order also requires social distancing inside businesses.
The owner of 9th Street Public House in downtown Columbia James Kanne said he was surprised the order will be lifted.
"This is quite a move," Kanne said. "We'll see how people react and we'll have to deal with it on our own personal level."
He said he is going to talk to his staff about their comfort level with lifting restriction before he makes any decisions.
"As a business we try to stay safe, I'll have to make adjustments for our staff to make sure they feel safe, what they'll wanna do," Kanne said.
The health department is still recommending masking and social distancing, but it's not required. Kanne said it's hard to tell if this was too soon.
"I know businesses are struggling and as these restrictions were loosened, we've done better,and we needed that, we needed that desperately," Kanne said.
The manager of Pressed also in Downtown Columbia Shana Trager said this is exciting news. She said it will help here employees focus more on service, other than just enforce rules.
"It's exciting and it's scary at the same time because it's like, 'wait, we've been under lock and key for so long,' so it's going to take time to adjust to no health order at all," Trager said.
University of Missouri spokesman Christian Basi said students and employees would no longer have to wear masks starting immediately. Masks will be required indoors though.
Last week the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced new coronavirus guidance that relaxes rules for wearing masks outside as cases drop and more people are vaccinated.
On Monday, St. Louis followed those new guidelines with revised health orders in the city and county. The new orders there also allow businesses to operate at full capacity and ends the requirement that bars and restaurants close early.