It was stated then that this would be a slow and steady reopening so as to monitor the potential for increases in community spread, total number of COVID-19 cases and hospital capacity. It must be remembered that there is no effective treatment or vaccine available for COVID-19 currently and that our best means to prevent community spread, the number of new cases and to maintain hospital capacity is social distancing combined with frequent hand washing, disinfecting of touch points, not socializing or going to work when you feel ill and considering wearing a mask when social distancing can not be maintained. Together, our community has made sacrifices to ensure Boone County did not, and does not become overwhelmed by the disease.
To begin the process of reopening more segments of our community, the director of Public Health established the Columbia/Boone County Plan for Response and Recovery, which was released on May 4. This plan is available on our website at CoMo.gov/Coronavirus.
The plan was drafted in recognition of the enormous progress made by our community in controlling the spread of the disease, but with the reality that the incubation period for the COVID-19 virus can range from two to 14 days with a median incubation period of five days. This is important as it takes time, up to 21 days, to collect, monitor, and evaluate enough data on spread, new cases and hospital capacity when moving from step to step.
On May 4, our communities began the journey to recovery by moving from Phase 1 to Phase 2, Step 1 of the plan. Phase 2 is a four-step plan. Step 1 began to relax prior restrictions to cautiously resume some normal community activities.
- Nonessential businesses such as retail stores, gyms and restaurants were encouraged to reopen with social distancing and occupancy controls.
- Childcare services and day camps were encouraged to reopen to the general public with social distancing and occupancy controls (since the inception of the health orders, childcare services have remained open for the care of children of emergency responders and personnel performing essential activities).
- Pools monitored with an attendant were encouraged to reopen with social distancing and occupancy controls.
- Personal care services such as hair and nail salons, massage businesses, etc., were encouraged to reopen with social distancing and other protective controls.
- All non-retail businesses not addressed in the order were encouraged to reopen with social distancing controls.
In Phase 2, Step 1, some businesses such as movie theaters, bars, playgrounds, and spray grounds where there are large gatherings and a lack of social distancing protocols available are not allowed to reopen. Gatherings of more than 10 people such as receptions and large social gatherings are also not allowed.
Since May 4, we have monitored the data, which today, less than 14 days into Phase 2, Step 1, indicates community transmission and the number of new COVID-19 cases since that date is relatively flat. All Columbia hospitals also report that they have the capacity to handle the normal day to day requirements and additional COVID-19 cases.
While our community should be encouraged by this news, we do need to allow a few more days to fully gather and evaluate the data to ensure community transmission and new cases are remaining stable. In the coming week, the director of Public Health and Human Services will be evaluating the data and the communities’ ability to move further into the recovery plan with an announcement likely the week of May 25 to allow the community time to implement any changes. This would coincide with potential changes to the state of Missouri order which is set to expire on May 31.
The next steps will continue to take advantage of opportunities to ensure individuals may interact in a safe and controlled manner to minimize the transmission of COVID-19 disease within the community. The success of the plan is dependent on individuals following social distancing requirements and businesses engaging their employees and customers in best practices to sanitize and prevent the spread of disease. What to look forward to in the next steps will include:
- Increased capacity for all businesses and organizations pursuant to a plan to control the spread of infectious disease through social distancing, cleaning, disinfection and contact tracing in the event of an outbreak associated with the business or organization.
- Large venues such as bars, pools and playgrounds could reopen with occupancy limits pursuant to a plan to control the spread of infectious disease through social distancing, cleaning, disinfection, contact tracing and customer notification in the event of an outbreak associated with the large venue.
- Mass gatherings of some size could resume with a plan to control the spread of infectious disease through social distancing, cleaning, disinfection, contact tracing and customer notification in the event of an outbreak associated with the mass gathering.