Residents of Columbia and Boone County are now subject to a stay-at-home order, effective at 8 a.m. Wednesday.
The order, announced Tuesday during a City Hall news conference conducted online, tightens limits on activity that have been in place since city and county officials declared an emergency in response to the coronavirus outbreak.
The order will be in effect for one month, until April 24, and includes fines up to $1,000 and a potential jail sentence for violators.
The order is intended to halt the spread of the novel coronavirus, which was shown on Monday to be spreading in the community through person-to-person contact. There were 20 confirmed infections in Boone County, according to the Columbia-Boone County Department of Public Health and Human Services.
The case number was unchanged from Monday afternoon.
Mayor Brian Treece called the order a "measured but aggressive action to make insure the maximum people stay at home to slow the spread of COVID-19 in our community."
Boone County Presiding Commissioner Dan Atwill directed some of his opening comments to people who think the restrictions already in place or those that will take effect Wednesday are too harsh.
"They continue to gather together and act as though the coronavirus isn’t even in the community," Atwill said. "This kind of behavior results in the rampant spread of the disease."
At the other end of the spectrum, Atwill noted, are people who are panicked.
"We must all act deliberately and exercise common sense," Atwill said. "Go to the grocery store when you need to but try not to hoard."
The order will be similar to restrictions that took effect Monday in St. Louis and St. Louis County and Tuesday morning in Kansas City, Jackson County and Clay County in western Missouri.
At Gerbes on Paris Road Tuesday morning after the order was issued, the parking lot was packed with cars.
Stephanie Mitchell, who works for Hubbell Power Systems in Centralia and has been working from home since last Wednesday, said she was there for the things she would need in the coming week, including fresh meat and vegetables.
"I plan to stay at home as much as I can," Mitchell said. "I thankfully have the opportunity to work from home, so I can remain, sort of in my normal standards."
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She accepts the order as a necessary step, she said. She fears what others might do, however.
"Just that people won’t do what they are supposed to do and stay home," she said. "We need to get through this."
Another shopper, Cynthia Smith, said she is frustrated by hoarders. Her biggest fear is that she won’t be able to find essentials.
"There are no paper products in there," she said.
She is also worried about people who will ignore the order.
"I think for the most part they will follow it, but you are always going to have the idiots out there," she said.
The news conference included remarks from Treece, Atwill, Columbia-Boone County Public Health and Human Services Director Stephanie Browning and Chamber of Commerce President Matt McCormick.
Browning, who signed the order, said she became concerned when the health department discovered three cases of community transmission.
"We want a different outcome than we see in other cities, states and countries," Browning said.
Three cases in Boone County are known to have been the result of community transmission. There has been one death in Boone County.
The county and Columbia are currently under an emergency order limiting gatherings to 10 people or fewer and requiring bars and restaurants to limit most service to takeout and delivery orders.
The new order will allow people to continue essential activities, such as visiting medical providers, obtaining food and other household supplies and caring for a family member. It will also allow restaurants to continue with take-out and delivery service and allow child care centers to remain open under restrictive limits on the number of children served.
"All individuals currently living within Boone County are ordered to stay at home or their place of residence except as allowed in this order," the order states. "All persons may leave their home or place of residence or if visiting the county as a non-resident only for essential activities, essential government functions or to operate essential businesses or operations …"
School districts in Boone County, which had set dates for resuming classes in early April, will remain closed until the order is lifted, Treece said.
"This order can be ended and extended at any time," he said.
In a statement issued after the order was announced, state Rep. Kip Kendrick, D-Columbia, said he supports the action.
"I applaud city of Columbia and Boone County leaders for making the difficult decision to issue a stay-at-home order," Kendrick said. "Local leaders have stepped up in recent weeks to fill a void and have taken necessary steps to flatten the curve. Their leadership is appreciated and does not go unnoticed."
Columbia Public Schools announced that it will not attempt to resume classes until the order is lifted.
The action will mean that approximately 40 percent of Missouri’s population is under local orders to remain at home except for essential needs. Gov. Mike Parson on Monday resisted taking those restrictions statewide, citing the need to preserve as much of the state’s economy as possible.
Parson spoke after new state figures were released showing that 183 people in the state are infected with the virus that causes COVID-19, an increase of 77 in less than 24 hours. Another large increase is expected Tuesday as late reports from county health departments are tallied.
At least five people have died of the coronavirus.
"When you start talking about shutting the state down for 30 days, 60 days, 90 days, the effect that has on everyday people is tremendous," Parson said. "It means businesses will close. People will lose their jobs. The economy will be in worse shape than ever."
Several states are under orders for their residents to remain at home, including California, New York, New Jersey and Illinois.
Statewide, there are 255 confirmed infections that have resulted in at least five deaths.
The University of Missouri Health Care drive-through testing site has taken samples from 738 people since opening last Wednesday, according to figures provided by MU Health Care on Monday. The center had about 200 visitors on Monday.
The free telehealth screening for coronavirus has had hundreds of visits since the $10 charge was eliminated last week.
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