County announces rules for reopening May 18


LIBERTY, Mo. (AP) — Businesses in St. Louis County that reopen May 18 will face several restrictions as the county moves through a “gradual, thoughtful” process to slow the spread of the coronavirus, St. Louis County Executive Sam Page announced Friday.

Officials in Kansas City, meanwhile, were reconsidering plans to reopen large facilities, bars and restaurants after a COVID-19 outbreak at a senior living community.

Large venues in St. Louis County, including sports courts and playgrounds, public pools, gyms and fitness centers, and banquet rooms, will not be allowed to open May 18, Page said.

Employees at businesses that do reopen will be required to wear masks, and businesses may refuse service to any customer not wearing one, he said.

The reopened businesses must frequently disinfect their premises, screen employees in danger of contracting the virus, and provide physical barriers if social distancing isn’t possible. Smaller establishments will be restricted to 25 percent occupancy and larger venues to 10 percent occupancy.

“As we start to discuss easing these [stay-at-home] orders, it does not mean we should let our guard down,” Page said. “This is a gradual process of reopening our county. A gradual, thoughtful, deliberate and measured process will allow us to continue to move forward.”

In Kansas City, Mayor Quinton Lucas said public health officials were testing residents and staff at McCrite Plaza in Briarcliff, where seven residents and four staff members tested positive. The facility is home to 80 residents.

Kansas City Health Department Director Rex Archer said he thought the city had “more cases this week than we’ve had any other week since this outbreak started,” The Kansas City Star reported.

The Health Department had planned to issue guidance Friday for the reopening of restaurants, bars, gyms, museums, the Kansas City Zoo, city-operated playgrounds and government buildings. A spokeswoman for Lucas said the city still hoped to issue guidelines to allow businesses to reopen as scheduled May 15.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms that clear up after two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.

A Kansas City-area church contends in a federal lawsuit filed Thursday that Jackson County’s reopening plan discriminates against religious institutions by limiting the number of people who can gather to worship.

Jackson County’s stay-at-home order ends May 10. The first phase of its reopening plan limits gatherings or social events to 10 or fewer people, which includes religious services, funerals and weddings. It also limits locations larger than 10,000 square feet to 10 percent occupancy.

The Abundant Life Baptist Church, which has sites in Lee’s Summit and Blue Springs, alleges in the lawsuit that the occupancy restrictions force the church to choose between violating its religious beliefs by not gathering, or face legal consequences for holding services, KMBC reported.

Jackson County offices were closed Friday to celebrate President Harry Truman’s birthday, and a spokeswoman did not immediately return a message seeking reaction.

Meanwhile in St. Louis County, Mercy Healthcare said Friday that it was furloughing thousands of workers starting Monday due to economic damage caused by the pandemic. Mercy said the decline in non-coronavirus medical procedures and doctors’ visits had created a financial hardship. The company operates hospitals and medical offices in four states.

Other St. Louis-area health care systems including BJC HealthCare and SSM Health have also cut jobs and pay and furloughed some employees.

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