COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)
Columbia city leaders heard a COVID-19 update Monday after the Columbia/Boone County Health Department extended health orders for two more weeks.
The Columbia City Council listened to a presentation on the local state of the coronavirus pandemic from city/county health director Stephanie Browning during the council's 7 p.m. meeting.
Watch Browning's talk live in the player below.
The health department said earlier Monday that it is extending the city and county COVID-19 orders currently in place until 11:59 p.m. Nov. 18. The order had been set to expire Tuesday.
Columbia Mayor Brian Treece and Browning had previously said they wanted to see how elementary students returning to in-person learning would affect the number of COVID-19 cases before a new health order would go into effect. Those students returned to classrooms on Oct .19.
Case numbers within Columbia Public Schools, however, were not the reason the health department stated for extending the order Monday. Hospitalizations were.
"Increased hospitalizations and an upward trend of new cases continues to be cause for concern as we navigate this pandemic," Browning said. "The data suggests that the current restrictions should stay in place at this time."
Browning also said there has been an increased strain on hospital resources as the result of more serious virus cases. A record 105 patients with COVID-19 were in Boone County hospitals Monday, according to the health department's COVID-19 hub. Of those, 29 were in intensive care.
Only 20 people in the hospitals were Boone County residents. Treece said this tells him the current mask order is working.
"The rest come from areas and regions that do not have the same public health protections that we do," he said.
Browning also cited an increase in cases. The 118 new cases Saturday were the most reported in a single day since September.
Ward 5 councilmember Matt Pitzer asked Browning about hospital capacity.
"It is a significant concern, is it a mild concern if we continue on the trend for a period of time are we going to be in real trouble in terms of hospital capacity," he asked.
Browning said the health department does have some concerns about staffing levels at the local hospitals as people continue to be quarantined or isolated. She said the health department will be meeting with local hospital leaders.
The council also briefly discussed the impact of the health order restrictions on local businesses. Several local representatives came forward to point out some industries like bars and restaurants have lost hundreds of thousands of dollars and have thousands of employees being impacted.
Browning said there is no clear answer for where the "sweet spot" in data is to begin lifting restrictions. She said she appreciates local businesses voicing their concerns and bringing ideas to the table.