Springfield, Greene Co. leaders answer questions on 'stay-at-home' order set to begin Thursday
During a live streamed news conference Wednesday afternoon, city and county leaders in Springfield clarified the "stay-at-home" order that goes into effect at 12:01 a.m. Thursday.
Springfield-Greene County Health Department Assistant Director Jon Mooney guided the 45-minute session, which started with a statistical update (23 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Greene County, no new deaths, and five people who have recovered.)
Greene County Commissioner Bob Dixon, Springfield Police Chief Paul Williams, and a city representative joined the panel.
Mooney admitted some of the restrictions are difficult, but added, "if we do this right, right now, it will help flatten the curve," during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mooney stressed the best thing most people can do is simply stay at home. The city and county want people only going out for "essential" services, such as grocery shopping, medical appointments, and employment at essential businesses.
Picking up carry-out orders and restaurant delivery drivers will also still be allowed.
"We would not be doing this if we were not one-hundred percent convinced that we are doing everything we can to protect life on a mass scale," Dixon said.
Mayor Ken McClure and the Springfield-Greene County Health Department issued the stay-at-home order Tuesday afternoon and released information on the city's website to explain which businesses are deemed "essential" versus "non-essential."
Dixon said the measures were crafted based on guidance from the federal Department of Homeland Security and comparisons with orders already in place in Kansas City and St. Louis.
"We really needed to get people's attention," Dixon said. "There were essentially two groups of people in the community. Those who were following the guidance... and then, to be a little bit crass and, quite frankly descriptive, the other group was partying it up and pretty near licking door knobs."
Dixon likened the COVID-19 pandemic to the Sept. 11 terror attacks and called on everyone to step up and do their part.
"We are within our bounds," Dixon said of the county's ability to enforce such a measure. "How much [liberty] do you have if you no longer have life?"
Of note, the panel covered several key elements on Thursday including enforcement, funerals, weddings, gun stores, and evictions.
to read the full stipulations.
Chief Williams noted his officers are not going to go out of their way to enforce the rules, instead planning to respond to complaints as needed. Williams says SPD would investigate and try to "mitigate" the situation without resulting in arrests or citations.
The chief also noted people would not be required to carry papers or documentation proving their "essential" status, nor would police or Greene County Sheriff's deputies set up checkpoints or random stops on the roads. Still, Williams asked people to comply with the order.
"Why would anyone want to put anyone at risk and be out in a manner where there are not sure if they should be out or not?" Williams said.
"When in doubt, stay home. It's pretty simple."
The panel fielded several questions pertaining to funerals and weddings. The order makes a distinction between the two, ruling funerals as "essential," but weddings are not. Mooney said, while disruptive, weddings can be rescheduled. He asked anyone planning a wedding before April 25 to reschedule them.
Funerals will be allowed, but social distancing -- maintaining six feet between other people -- is encouraged at those gatherings.
The local order did not include guidance on if gun stores could remain open. That was by design. Dixon explained Missouri state law already states no order of government can restrict a lawful purchase or sale of a firearm. In essence, gun stores will be allowed to remain open.
Springfield-Greene County's order also does not direct landlords on if they should suspend evictions during the 30-day period. However, Dixon asked people to "have mercy" on people going through financial distress.
CHALLENGING BUSINESS CLASSIFICATION
The city is allowing businesses to request a change in their classification status. Owners can do so by visiting springfieldmo.gov/essentialbusiness, calling 417-799-1570, or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
The city says it is working with local organizations to develop a plan for the homeless. The panel pointed to a $1 million grant pledge from the Community Foundation of the Ozarks as a big boost for non-profits, including many that assist, feed, and shelter the homeless.
Many outdoor activities will be allowed during the order. This includes golf courses, hunting, and fishing. The city asks golf courses to shut down pro shops, but will allow traditional play as long as golfers maintain social distance.
Businesses that support "essential" ones will also be considered "essential." For example, small engine repair shops will be allowed to stay open, as they assist lawn mowing companies (which have been deemed "essential.")
ON GOV. PARSON
Addressing a question regarding Gov. Mike Parson's decision to allow local municipalities to order and enforce stay-at-home stipulations instead of issuing a statewide directive, Dixon offered a short and pointed answer.
"I think the time that we're going through right now is no time for any divisiveness. I think it's time for us to work together and put all politics aside," Dixon said.
Personal and pet grooming has been deemed "non essential," which means salons are not allowed to operate during this time. Answers to questions on the topic led to a moment of levity from the panel.
"I was supposed to get my haircut last week, so by the time this is over, who knows what I'll look like," Dixon quipped.
"I'm prepared to relax grooming standards in the police department," Williams added.