Columbia’s reopening has been put on “pause.”
Columbia/Boone County Public Health and Human Services announced Friday it was extending the second phase of the reopening plan until Aug. 10.
The current phase of the reopening plan, which began June 23, allowed businesses to reopen if they adhered to social distancing requirements and limited large gatherings to 100 people.
Health Department Director Stephanie Browning said Columbia’s COVID-19 infection rate is headed in the wrong direction.
“Based on the numbers we have seen in the last couple of weeks, we need to pause our original reopening plans,” Browning said in a news release. “The plan we outlined was for the best-case scenario, and we just aren’t there right now. Extending the current step allows us to get a handle on this virus so that we can try to avoid moving backward in our response.”
One step the Columbia City Council has taken is to require people to wear masks while in public settings or when gathering in private with people from outside their households. The ordinance took effect at 5 p.m. Friday.
Columbia businesses who talked with the Missourian on Friday said they are prepared.
Clovers Natural Market started requiring employees and customers to wear masks long before the council passed the ordinance, owner Patty Clover said.
“I think it’s especially helpful that the city has mandated masks now, because now it’s just city law,” Clover said. “It’s not just our law in the store.”
Clover said the store offers free masks to customers who don’t have them. If someone refuses to wear a mask, employees will politely ask them not to enter the store.
“The first thing we talk about is being polite, and we don’t want to bring any political agendas into our conversation about masks,” Clover said.
Customers also have the options of curbside shopping or ordering by phone. “We feel that the best way to get rid of this virus is to have everyone quit spreading it,” Clover said.
Clovers Natural Market has posted safety measures on its website.
“Our employees wouldn’t work here if we didn’t enforce masks,” Clover said. “We’ve not had any problem with an employee wearing a mask because they demanded it of themselves.”
Clover said the market provides its employees with boxes of single-use, paper masks, but most of the employees choose to wear their own.
At Bonsai Sushi, owner Somsak Tuankrua has been encouraging its employees to wear masks for three months. All delivery drivers will be asked to wear a mask when entering the restaurant now that the ordinance is in effect.
“We have the sign put up on the front door to say ‘requires a mask before you can go into the restaurant,’” Tuankrua said.
The restaurant now will require employees to wear masks. “But still we will ask (customers) politely to wear a mask if they have one. If they do not, we will tell them: ‘Next time, you come into the restaurant wearing a mask,’” Tuankrua said.
Tin Roof Monogram & Gift will not allow those who choose not to wear a mask to enter its store. It does offer alternatives, though.
“If, for whatever reason, they choose not to wear a mask or they can’t wear a mask, we’re offering curbside pickup and delivery with a $10 fee inside Columbia,” owner Nicole Morris said.
Morris said employees have not pushed back about the need to wear masks.
“Everyone understands that this is what we have to do for the betterment of our community, and whether you agree with it or not, this is how it is going to be,” Morris said.
In addition to the masks, Morris said employees will continue to ensure safety through deep cleaning surfaces such as counters and computers to help prevent the spread of the virus. While masks aren’t provided to those who don’t have one, they are available for purchase.
Beet Box workers began wearing masks a week in advance of the ordinance both to prepare for it and “as a mutual decision.”
“We try to make those decisions as an entire crew,” co-owner Benjamin Hamrah said.
Beet Box has not asked customers to wear masks as it stands with the people’s right to choose, Hamrah said, adding that it hasn’t been a problem.
“We have noticed that the vast majority of our clientele is already wearing them, so we don’t anticipate it to be a very big issue,” Hamrah said.
Beet Box is doing what it can to provide a safe dining experience for customers in its small space. It does not seat people at the bar and has spaced out its seating.
For the most part, Hamrah said customers are doing a good job of being safe.
“People are using their own cognizance to decide what they feel comfortable with. If someone is inside at the register, people are outside waiting for that person to finish, so it’s pretty much working itself out on its own.”
Embroider It owner Julie Cordia said customers were filling the store Friday in advance of the mask ordinance taking effect. She has met no resistance to the rule from customers.
If a person refuses to wear a provided disposable mask, Cordia said, they can order online or call the store to talk about it.
Woods Auto Spa is committed to compliance, owner Dimetrious Woods said. The most difficult aspect of the mask ordinance, he said, is ensuring his employees comply.
“I understand the goal, but it is a big responsibility,” said Woods. “I’m scared to be fined because we can’t afford it.”
Kathy Becker, director of operations for the Downtown Community Improvement District, said masks will be provided free to businesses in the district through the city’s website, or if store owners call (657) 422-6816.
The number of positive COVID-19 cases in Boone County has steadily risen over the past several weeks. The county set a record Saturday when it recorded 56 new cases from the previous day, the highest single-day total.
A total of 567 people were in quarantine because of close contact, 315 cases were still active and 409 people had been released from isolation. Two deaths have been attributed to COVID-19 in Boone County, according to the city of Columbia.
Missouri’s health department reported that the number of people who have died of COVID-19 in the state reached 1,069 Saturday. Missouri on Thursday broke the state record again for the highest single-day increase in confirmed cases as close to another 800 people had fallen ill.
Data released by the state health department showed another 472 cases reported Saturday, bringing the total number of confirmed coronavirus cases to 27,133 in Missouri. Including cases that are reported by Boone County but not yet registered by the state, there were 496 new cases and 27,293 total cases statewide Saturday. Another five deaths were reported by the state.
The extension of the Boone County order was based on not meeting all the criteria to safely move on to the next reopening phase. Those criteria include the Health Department being able to maintain active disease investigation, contact tracing and monitoring.
The waits for testing and results have slowed in Boone County due to demand, and on Thursday, MU Health announced it was opening an additional drive-thru facility at Mizzou North.
The Health Department again urged the public to avoid large gatherings and to help fight the spread of the disease by:
- Staying home if you are sick.
- Avoiding close contact with others by social distancing from people outside your household.
- Wearing a mask when around others, which is now required within the city limits.
- Following all guidelines when visiting businesses in Boone County.
- Washing your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, or using hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
- Covering coughs and sneezes.
- Contacting your primary care physician or local health care system immediately if you begin to experience any symptoms of COVID-19.
Missourian reporters Abby Orf, Roshae Hemmings and Feiyu Su contributed to this report.