Commission dispels virus rumors, opposes county-level stay home order

By Buck Collier, Special Correspondent
Posted 4/1/20

HERMANN —Along with managing all the other aspects of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic at the local level, add one more thing with which Gasconade County government officials have to deal: …

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Commission dispels virus rumors, opposes county-level stay home order


HERMANN —Along with managing all the other aspects of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic at the local level, add one more thing with which Gasconade County government officials have to deal: Rumor control.

Presiding Commissioner Larry Miskel, R-Hermann, last Thursday said social media has been used to spread misinformation about efforts to contain the spread of the virus. During last week’s session of the County Commission, he recounted an incident in which a woman told him she understood that police in one local municipality was turning away out-of-town residents at the city limits. Miskel said he assured the woman that was not the case.

“That kind of scare tactic can only hurt us,” the county’s top administrator said. “All I ask is to make sure the information is accurate and leave opinion to the experts,” he said.

Miskel also noted that while some local governments in the region have adopted stay-at-home orders, he does not endorse such a move in Gasconade County. “I will not support this action, unless mandated by the state,” he said. “In the rural part of Missouri, we’ve got a lot of separation” between residents, he said.

Further, he said the county government website is not being used to disseminate information about the coronavirus because the information changes quickly, which would make it difficult to ensure the website’s content would be the most accurate.

Meanwhile, employees at the Courthouse are being given paid at-home vacations as a way to safeguard against an office’s entire being infected. The move began with the state employees of the Circuit Court. It was then extended to the employees of the various county government offices. The time off is staggered among an office’s employees. But for some of the employees, it could be a working vacation, Miskel said. “If they have the ability to work from home, they’re doing that,” he said.

Access to the Courthouse is controlled, also, as a way to protect against the virus. County Clerk Lesa Lietzow reported that the signs affixed to the front doors instructing visitors to call the particular office they need to deal are proving successful. “The signs are working,” she said. “I go to the door and we do the 20 questions.”

The clerk said she wants to emphasize that during this time of unusual precaution county government offices remain open. “We are open for business,” she said. “It’s just that you have to make a few phone calls” to get inside the building. “It’s very, very quiet,” Lietzow said.

Regarding the Circuit Courts, which have effectively shut down as the state and nation cope with the pandemic, Presiding Circuit Court Judge I.I. “Ike” Lamke recently announced that the hiatus would continue through at least April 17.

However, there was one bit of official activity taking place in the main courtroom recently — the swearing in of Interim Sheriff Mark Williams. Associate Circuit Judge Ada Brehe-Krueger administered the oath of office on March 24 to the former chief deputy, who succeeds Sheriff John Romanus. Romanus’ last day on the job was March 23, after which he returned to his former civilian employment.

Williams, a resident of Phelps County, will hold the office until the November General Elections are certified. The winner of the sheriff’s post then will be named to the office, getting a head start before the term officially begins Jan. 1.

Because he is not a resident of Gasconade County, Williams is not eligible to run for the office. Headed into the end of filing on Tuesday, there were two candidates for the office, both Republicans — Scott Eiler, a member of the Hermann Police Department and former member of the Owensville Police Department, and Shawn Mayberry, a former sergeant with the Hermann Police Department and now a member of the Warren County Sheriff’s Department

Of the swearing-in ceremony, Miskel said: “That will probably be the last official act in this courtroom as it looks the way it did.”  As the ceremony was ending, contractor Glen Englert began moving his equipment into the historic courtroom to continue its renovation.

In other matters involving the coronavirus effort in the county seat, both the Gasconade County R-1 and R-2 school districts Friday decided to extend the school closings through at least Friday, April 24. Students initially were scheduled to return to classes Monday, April 6. If R-1 stays with the school calendar as it was adopted last summer — and all indications are that it will — if students return on April 27, there would be about three weeks of classes remaining until the end of the school year. The first confirmed case of the virus in the county was reported on Tuesday. Details about the location, age, sex, or condition of the victim were not made available only that it was not travel related.


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