‘Stay Home Missouri’ starts Monday

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Compton: Governor’s order not much different from what county officials have been asking

On Friday, Gov. Mike Parson issued a new order called “Stay Home Missouri,” imploring Missouri residents to avoid leaving their homes as much as possible to stop the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus).

Locally, David Compton, Barry County Emergency Management director, said the order essentially emphasizes what officials in Barry and Lawrence counties have been asking residents to do for nearly two weeks.

“Barry County has had the emergency order in place, and this is not a substantial change from what we already had — asking people to avoid gathering in groups of 10 or more and to adhere to the six-foot social distancing guidelines,” he said. “The Governor has seen many localities do this already, so this order is just him saying, ‘Let’s do this state-wide.’ The stay-at-home order is also not a shelter-in-place order, [which would ask for more stringent actions.] In the end, the thing that allows us to end these types of orders is compliance so they work.

Compton said he biggest thing for people to know is the stay-at-home order does not affect essential businesses.

“Grocery stores, restaurants, employees working in food delivery or the food chain industry, medical services and emergency services will still be in operation,” he said. “They are continuing to get supplies, sometimes on a daily basis. The only thing we may see different here is enhanced enforcement of social distancing at the larger, big box stores.”

Compton said stores will limit the number of people inside based on Parson’s order, and for larger stores with multiple departments, people should adhere to the six-foot social distancing guideline, and no more than 10 people may be in a space (aisle) at a time.

Compton said many of the calls he has taken revolve around essential versus non-essential business.

“I hope to meet with the commissioners soon and explain that a bit better,” he said. “We will work to put out something detailed and grouping business types together to make it easier to understand. For example, churches can operate, but they should not have more than 10 in the building at once, and those people should stay six feet apart. What we’ve seen happen is more virtual services, and one church did a service where people pulled their vehicles into the parking lot six feet apart, and the church broadcast the service over an FM radio frequency.

“We feel strongly about the fact we need to protect the right for people to practice their religion, so the goal is to help people continue to worship, but also in a way that allows for social distancing and protects our people.”

Other questions can be more tricky.

“I had a masseuse ask me if that is an essential service,” Compton said. “Just a massage is not essential, but if it’s tied to physical therapy and overcoming injury, then it becomes a health issue and is essential, so there is some gray area there.”

Cases by the numbers

State-wide on Saturday at noon, Missouri had 2,113 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 19 deaths.

Locally, Barry County has done 60 tests, with 49 negative results, 10 results pending and one positive.

“The one positive person is still in quarantine, and the nine people who had close contact with that person are still in isolation,” Compton said. “I believe all of those nine tested negative.”

Compton said the person who tested positive is at home and mostly recovered, with no more serious signs or symptoms. The health department is continuing to track the person’s throughout the quarantine time.

“They are communicating on a regular basis, and once the person reached the end of the 14 days and has not developed new symptoms, that person may come out of quarantine.”

In Lawrence County, as of Thursday, 49 negative tests had been returned and 15 tests were pending. There are still no positive results in Lawrence County.

The Lawrence County Health Department did release on its Facebook Friday that daily test figures would not be available any longer.

“There are still zero reported cases of coronavirus in Lawrence County at this time,” the post said. “Unfortunately, due to the increase in the volume of tests being conducted by numerous sites for a large number of counties, it will no longer be possible to give an accurate count of how many tests are being performed. From now on, we will only be able to notify residents of positive cases in the county. We know that many of you looked forward to seeing this update and we are sorry we can no longer provide this for you on a daily basis.

“We would like to express our deep gratitude to all the medical providers on the front line who are putting their own health at risk to combat this invisible enemy. We would also like to thank our county residents who continue stay at home as much as possible and follow all of the precautions to help stop the spread.”

Official order

Beginning Monday at 12:01 a.m. and continuing through 11:59 p.m. on April 24, Parson’s order explicitly states that individuals currently residing within the state of Missouri shall avoid leaving their homes or places of residence unless necessary.

“First and foremost, I want everyone to know that I love this state and the people of this state,” Parson said. “The people of this great state clearly define who we are in Missouri, and as Governor, I have no greater responsibility than to protect the health, well-being, and safety of all Missourians.”

The order has specific guidance for staying home, social distancing, businesses and employees, schools, restaurants, firearm sales and state government buildings, including:

• Individuals currently residing within the state of Missouri shall avoid leaving their homes or places of residence. 

• All individuals in the state of Missouri shall avoid social gatherings of more than 10 people. 

• All public and charter schools must remain closed for the duration of the Order.

• Any entity that does not employ individuals to perform essential worker functions, as set forth in guidance provided by the federal government, shall adhere to the limitations on social gatherings and social distancing. 

• Any entity that employs individuals to perform essential worker functions, and that is engaged in retail sales to the public, shall limit the number of individuals in any particular retail location as follows:

- 25 percent or less of the entity’s authorized fire or building code occupancy, as set by local authorities, for a retail location with square footage of less than ten thousand square feet (10,000 ft²);

- 10 percent or less of the entity’s authorized fire or building code occupancy, as set by local authorities, for a retail location with square footage of ten thousand square feet (10,000 ft²) or more.

The order does not prohibit Missourians from accessing essential services, such as grocery stores, gas stations, and banks, or engaging in outdoor recreation, provided that necessary precautions are taken and maintained to reduce the transmission of COVID-19, including observing the social gathering and social distancing requirements set forth in the Order.

The order shall be observed throughout the state and enforced by all local and state health authorities. Local public health authorities are directed to carry out and enforce the provisions of the order by any legal means.

“There comes a time when we have to make major sacrifices in our lives. Many of us make sacrifices each and every day, but now more than ever, we must all make sacrifices,” Parson said. “This is not about any one individual person. This is about our families, friends, neighbors, and the entire state of Missouri. For the sake of all Missourians, be smart, be responsible, and stay home, Missourians.”

Flattening the curve

The main goal of this order, Compton said, is to flatten the curve and reduce the number of infections and, ultimately, deaths due to coronavirus.

“If we didn’t do this, the number of sick and dead will continue to rise,” Compton said. “The U.S. is projected to have 2,607 deaths per day through April 16 if nothing is done. In Missouri, if we do nothing, the peak is expected around May 18 with a 5-7 day period of 22 deaths per day and a total death count of 1,200-1,300.

“But, by issuing this stay-at-home order, we are encouraging people to take actions to flatten the curve and get through this wave of COVID quicker, with fewer infections and fewer deaths. That will allow us to try to figure out how to handle the next wave, because Spanish Flu, Swine Flu and H1N1 all came back in waves.”

Letters of essential service

Many employers have continued to issue letters of essential service to employees, and Compton maintains that even with this order, those letters are not necessary.

Although it does not hurt to carry the letters, Compton said the likelihood of any fines or enforcement remains low.

“There are no plans in the county for any major enforcement, [like fines or jailing],” Compton said. “There are no plans for anyone to stop anyone and ask for their papers or anything. If you are stopped, you may be asked what you are doing, but it would not be that serious.

“We’ve had lots of phone calls about that, and at the end of the day, people can call me or the health department and ask if they provide an essential service.”

Compton said law enforcement would know what essential services are, and letters handed out by employers would not carry any legal weight, as a business owner proclaiming a business is essential does not inherently make it so.

“Government agencies determine what essential services are,” Compton said.

A list of essential services may be found at: www.tinyurl.com/u8j94wo.

Enforcement

When it comes to law enforcement, Gary Davis, Barry County sheriff said the onus is on the Department of Health and Human Services.

“Right now, there is no penalty for violating the order that we can enforce,” Davis said. “There is a movement afoot for me to release all our prisoners so they don’t all get it. But, I’m not going to do that and then start jailing people who are just trying to go to work or get things they need.”

Davis said the Office is keeping its shifts normal, and deputies will use a common-sense approach to dealing with anyone blatantly violating the order.

“If we see a group of 40 people standing around, we will ask what’s going on,” he said. “But, we don’t have any means of legal enforcement. We aren’t going to let anyone have a football game or anything, but we won’t be pulling cars over asking people where they are going.

“We will do what is right by the people of Barry County.”

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