Columbia Mayor Brian Treece answers questions after a press conference from reporters

Columbia Mayor Brian Treece answers questions from reporters after a news conference Tuesday about what the city is doing to help with the COVID-19 pandemic. Treece later met with reporters again to announce the first coronavirus cases in mid-Missouri.

Two people, one in Boone County and one in Cole County, have tested positive for COVID-19, making them the first confirmed cases of the virus in mid-Missouri, according to the Missouri Department of Health & Senior Services.

The individual who tested positive in Boone County was in their 60s, according to MU Health Care, where the patient had been treated. The case — one of 16 known in Missouri as of Tuesday night — is related to travel from another country. On Wednesday, Gov. Mike Parson announced that the patient had died that morning.

Those who have been in contact with the patient have been notified, said Stephanie Browning, public health and human services director for Columbia and Boone County.

An order from Browning on Tuesday placed restrictions on gatherings in Columbia, including at bars, restaurants, entertainment venues, gyms and facilities with groups of high-risk individuals.

All these will be limited to 50 people or half capacity, whichever number is less. Restaurants can continue serving drive-thru customers their to-go and delivery items.

While the limit on gatherings, both public and private, is 50 people, groups of people who have been designated high-risk will have a limit of 10. Grocery stores, the Columbia Farmers Market, pharmacies, food banks, crisis shelters, detention facilities and cafeterias inside nursing homes and hospitals are all exempt.

“I want people to protect themselves,” Browning said. “We all have a role, we have a community role. What we do, the actions we take, we know are going to be very difficult, but each of us has a responsibility also to do the best that we can to take care of ourselves.”

Browning reminded everyone of the basics of avoiding the spread of COVID-19: wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water; use hand sanitizer; don’t touch your face; cough and sneeze into your elbow; disinfect surfaces; and, above all, stay home when you’re sick.

“That’s how we protect the most vulnerable in our community,” she said.

There have been 266 total individuals tested for COVID-19 in the state, according to the department, with 15 individuals testing positive.

The city of Columbia will inform the community of the updated total of positive cases at the close of business daily, according to Mayor Brian Treece. The City Council declared a state of emergency for Columbia on Monday.

Treece emphasized the importance of continuing avoidance practices, regardless of the pace of the virus’ spread in the region.

“If we don’t see more (cases) for a few days, I don’t want people to lean back and relax and think it’s OK to resume normal community behavior.”

MU Health Care will be offering drive-thru COVID-19 testing starting Wednesday for patients with physician orders, according to MU Health Care Chief Nursing Officer Mary Beck. It is intended for patients with mild symptoms who have already been assessed either through a clinic or video visit.

MU Health also announced new visitor restrictions Tuesday evening following the announcement of the first positive case. Visitors will be limited to one per patient, and visitors must be at least 18 years old.

Exceptions will be made for pediatric patients, end-of-life care and psychiatric professional visitors, and on a case-by-case basis. Boone Hospital Center and Truman Veterans’ Hospital have also announced visitor restrictions.

For more COVID-19 related news, see our section dedicated to COVID-19 updates.
  • Galen Bacharier is an assistant city editor at the Missourian. He has reported on higher education, state government and breaking news. Reach him at galenbacharier@gmail.com or on Twitter @galenbacharier.

  • As senior editor of the Missourian, Fred Anklam manages general assignment reporters. He can be reached at anklamf@missouri.edu or in the newsroom at 573-882-5720.

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