Columbia bars and restaurants will not be serving late night alcohol anytime soon, according to Stephanie Browning’s report given at Monday’s City Council meeting.
Browning, director of the Columbia/Boone County Public Health and Human Services Department, extended the order Friday, citing rising hospitalization numbers and Columbia Public Schools' return to in-person classes starting Monday.
The order prohibits bars and restaurants from serving alcohol past 10:30 p.m. and limits group gatherings to a maximum of 10 people per table. It will now run through Nov. 3.
Fifth Ward Councilman Matt Pitzer asked if Browning and the Health Department would be willing to loosen the bar and restaurant restrictions, as the number of cases are relatively stable. Pitzer suggested extending operation hours or increasing the capacity rate.
Browning said she didn’t think this would be wise right now as the county is seeing a consistent increase in hospitalizations over the past few weeks.
“If two weeks ago we had held at where we were, I would’ve hoped to be coming to you tonight and say, ‘Hey, let’s take it to 11 and see how that works,” Browning said. “Then with that spike in numbers over the last two weeks, that trend wasn’t holding, I just didn’t feel like we could go there yet.”
As of Monday, 91 COVID-19 patients were hospitalized in Boone County, according to the county’s dashboard. This is the highest COVID-19 hospitalization rate the county has seen.
Browning said as hospitalization rates for COVID-19 are increasing, hospitals need all the help they can get to ensure they are not overwhelmed.
“It is necessary to extend the current order to ensure local resources can meet the demand that will likely occur in the coming week,” Browning said in a statement Friday.
Columbia Public Schools elementary students returned to the classroom Monday.
Sixth Ward Councilwoman Betsy Peters agreed with Browning on extending the order.
“I want to be sympathetic to the restaurants and the bars, but I’m pretty happy based on your data just to not have to go backwards,” Peters said.