"The fact that we have a safe and effective vaccine - there are shots being given to our frontline healthcare workers every day - is certainly a bright light at the end of the tunnel. But this pandemic is far from over," Browning said.
On Dec. 14, health care workers in Missouri began receiving the first dosage of the coronavirus vaccine as part of the distribution plan established by the State of Missouri. This first phase of vaccine distribution includes long-term care facility residents and staff, and patient-facing health care workers. Because supply of the vaccine is so limited right now, however, it is imperative to continue all of the fact-based measures that are known to limit the spread of the pandemic.
"We have to keep up these public health measures that protect our friends and family from the virus and help us return to normal sooner. Until a majority of people in our community have been vaccinated, we need to keep wearing masks, practicing social distancing, and avoid gathering with people we don’t live with. We know that’s hard during the holidays, but we all have to take personal responsibility to slow the spread of the pandemic so that we can return to a strong economy and normal day-to-day activities," said Browning.
The number of new COVID-19 cases remain stable, but continues to be a strain on available resources. As of Dec. 16, the five-day average for new COVID-19 cases was 108. This remains elevated compared to the number of new cases recorded in late October, suggesting that current protocols should remain in place to further reduce the number of new infections. These cases could also be considered more severe than in previous months, given the increased number of COVID-19 related deaths Boone County has recorded in the last month. Additionally, Boone County hospitals remain in the ‘yellow’ zone status, so extending the current measures for an additional four weeks aims to ensure the capacity of local resources remains adequate to meet the anticipated need while the vaccine administration plans are implemented both locally and nationally.
The current COVID-19 protocols include:
- Face masks must be worn by those over the age of 10 when social distancing cannot be maintained. This applies to both within Columbia city limits and within Boone County.
- Maintain social distance from those outside your household at all times.
- To increase safety and maximize social distancing within the establishment, all businesses are strongly encouraged to operate at a capacity less than otherwise permitted. Businesses are also encouraged to provide services remotely or in a manner maximizing social distancing such as curbside, pickup, delivery, etc.
- Entertainment venues, bars, and restaurants serving alcohol must close by 10:30 p.m.
- Restaurants and bars must maintain social distancing between tables. No more than 10 people may be seated at a table. Patrons must be seated at all times; the exceptions are when entering/exiting the business or visiting a restroom facility. When not seated, patrons must wear a face mask.
- Sporting events are limited to 100 spectators or less. Athletes must remain in stable groups of 50.
- Any large group gathering or event held at a business or institution open to the public is limited to 50% occupancy or 100 people, whichever is less. This includes events in hotels, conference/event centers, places of worship, etc.
- All public and private gatherings not described within the Orders are limited to 20 people or fewer. Face masks must be worn and social distancing maintained at all times at all gatherings.