New local restrictions placed on gatherings

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Churches, funerals now asked to make adjustments

Restrictions on activity continue to tighten as the response to the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic broadens.

On Thursday morning, the Lawrence County Commission issued a restriction that all gatherings should be limited to no more than 10 people.

The county commission's Declaration of a State of Emergency states, "All group events or gatherings of more than 10 people in Lawrence County are prohibited from taking place during the duration of this Order."

The order specifically does not apply to educational institutions, daycare facilities, daily business operations, places of employment, grocery store, retail stores, or any activity a Court of competent jurisdiction holds cannot constitutionally be closed in these specific circumstances. Daily businesses offering entertainment, amusement and recreation, bars, taverns or food establishments offering dining for more than 10 people, were ordered closed, except for deliveries, pickup and drive-through service.

"Any person who organizes a gathering of 10 or fewer shall take appropriate action to minimize risk to the greatest extend possible by implementing and enforcing measures, including but not limited to, social distancing, limiting the time period of gatherings, frequent cleaning of all surfaces, and posting of signs," the declaration states.

Barry County Emergency Management Director David Compton said Barry County is sticking to its limit of 50. Without any cases in the county, Compton said social distancing should address most concerns without further impacting commerce.

“We’re optimistic but realistic enough to realize eventually we are likely to have a case,” Compton said.

The declaration follows a declaration by the Springfield-Cape Girardeau diocese of the Roman Catholic Church suspending all public Masses and encouraging parishioners to opt for local livestreamed services. The diocese announcement stated Funeral Masses would be offered only for immediate family. No funeral meals would be held. Weddings would be limited to the couple, parents, witnesses and the priest or deacon. Baptisms outside of Mass would be available only to immediate family. Meetings and other events were cancelled until further notice.

The directive on church services has been widely adopted within the religious community. First United Methodist Church in Monett has announced worship services would shift to online at www.fumcmonett.org/watch. Sunday school classes, small groups and all Wednesday Night programs were also switching to an online format.

New Site Baptist Church in rural Monett canceled regular worship services, classes and ministry events. Sunday morning services will be streamed on Facebook.

First Baptist Church in Monett has established an online stream from services on its regular webpage.

Trinity Lutheran Church in Freistatt has posted video messages via YouTube on the church’s website. Trinity’s services have long been broadcast via radio. Pastor Jake Sletten announced the posting of podcasts and procedures for dropping off church donations.

St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church has postponed services at the church, including Stations of the Cross on Wednesdays, and is directing its members to an online and prayer channel, www.prayerchapel.us, providing brief prayer (10-15 minutes) every day at 7 or 8 a.m. and 9 or 9:30 p.m.

“We are praying you and your families are all staying healthy,” a press release from Linda Schelin said. “Thank you for continuing to serve our community.”

Funeral homes have taken direction issued by the National and Missouri Funeral Directors Association, issued Wednesday, asking that local funeral homes follow the guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control.

At Buchanan Funeral Home, Jeff James said Buchanan has a scheduled funeral for Friday morning, which will be held as scheduled, including visitation before the service. After that, he said, the funeral home will only offer graveside services, no visitations. Gatherings will be limited to 10 people, with immediate family.

Rick Wormington at Bennett-Wormington Funeral Home said his organization would conduct graveside services only until March 31. No formal visitation would be available, but families would be welcome to come to a private visitation, and he would accommodate a private family funeral if requested. Wormington said he would recommend families could hold a memorial service at a later date. He added the CDC had not issued any restriction on the size of a gathering for a graveside service.

At the Thursday morning meeting of the Monett City Council, City Administrator Dennis Pyle said the city was canceling the use the Jerry D. Hall Memorial Pavilion at the Glen and Sharon Garrett Park, for the next eight weeks, through mid-May. Rather than turning on the splash pad at the pavilion in late March or early April, Pyle said that would be delayed as well to discourage gatherings.

Effective Monday, public access to the historic Lawrence County courthouse will be limited. Offices will be open and will be accessible by telephone or other electronic means. Each office will determine how they will handle individual cases as they occur, and may be by appointment only.

Parties or groups that have reserved the City Park Casino had been contacted and were urged to cancel their events until at least mid-May, Pyle said.

Witt-Schute said the Monett school district asked about the use of the FEMA storm shelters when schools are closed. Based a county health department advice, she said it was decided an imminent storm threat should take priority and the shelters would be in use.

Witt-Schulte reported a nursing home approached the emergency management office for help when it ran out of toilet paper. Mercy Hospital in Aurora was able to fill the need.

She added her office is having weekly calls with the Health Care Coalition and daily calls with the State Emergency Management Agency. Her office is distributing information from the Small Business Administration offering low interest loans to businesses impacted by the changing economic situation. Other assistance is offered through the Monett Chamber of Commerce.

Witt-Schulte noted the Monett Police Department has a two-week lag in obtaining additional protective equipment.

Pyle reported the city is temporarily waiving the requirement that employees have written documentation signed by their health care provider for absences in excess of six days within a six-month period. This applies to employees showing symptoms so that they will not risk contaminating emergency rooms or doctor’s offices.

Pyle suspended all non-essential travel outside of Monett, effective immediately and discouraged in-person meetings if possible. A new sick leave bank was established for newer employees who may show symptoms, encouraging them to stay home. All employees who have accrued sick leave could voluntarily contribute sick leave days to the bank. A maximum number of 20 hours per week would be available to not exhaust all the available hours.

“Time is of the essence as we deal with COVID-19,” Pyle wrote in a memo on Monday. “There is federal legislation that deals with paid sick leave but we won’t know for sure how and when it will be implemented.”

Editor's Note: Visit https://disasterresponse.maps.arcgis.com/apps/opsdashboard/index.html#/1fd320124... for up to date information on the COVID-19 outbreak statewide.

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  • -- Posted by johnrmonett on Thu, Mar 19, 2020, at 5:57 PM
  • I don't have a problem with this and am very sure it is a good idea, but does a county commission (or any entity in our government) really have the power to tell US citizens how many of them can get together, etc? ---freedom of assembly is one of our most basic)...also, I remember several families around that had more than ten people!..hate to have to break up big families! :)

    -- Posted by Common Tater on Thu, Mar 19, 2020, at 8:46 PM
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