Coronavirus threat being felt locally: schools close; courts, City Hall limit public access to reduce potential exposure

By Dave Marner, Managing Editor
Posted 3/18/20

Cancellation announcements pertaining to the coronavirus threat continued to arrive throughout the day Monday and into Tuesday afternoon from regional schools, libraries, government agencies, …

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Coronavirus threat being felt locally: schools close; courts, City Hall limit public access to reduce potential exposure

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Cancellation announcements pertaining to the coronavirus threat continued to arrive throughout the day Monday and into Tuesday afternoon from regional schools, libraries, government agencies, political action groups, and virtually any organization with plans for a meeting over the next two weeks.

This is, literally, an issue full of cancellation stories. For at least two of them, stories put together Monday morning announcing an event became a story by later in the day — or early Tuesday morning — that the event had been cancelled — or its format altered to a telephone conference.

Both national and state emergency declarations were made late last week.

Strange times indeed as a theme has emerged across the state and the nation where mathematical simulations are apparently being reviewed hourly, and updated, to reflect the potential capability of this coronavirus to spread.

Owensville’s Board of Aldermen did not meet Monday for their regularly scheduled second meeting of the month. “The meeting tonight has been cancelled due to the covid-19” was the text message sent to The Republican six minutes after closing time at City Hall.

Aldermen had been scheduled to address a “personnel” issue in closed session following a relatively light agenda which included public hearings, and adoption of corresponding ordinances, on rezoning requests.

One was to allow construction of a small house on Ron Geisler’s 410 Plum Street property through a R-1A zoning designation, changed from R-1. Neighbors who spoke to the The Republican recently had no opposition to the proposal and supported the community effort to rebuild using donated labor and materials.

Geisler’s rezoning request, sought on his behalf by Dr. Roger Stewart, appeared to be on a fast-track for approval — with aldermen previously agreeing to waive the fees — before the late-day cancellation Monday. That hearing will be rescheduled at a later date and the city will need to publish another round of public notices.

City Administrator Brian Samples sent out a notice Tuesday morning announcing the City Hall lobby would be closed until further notice.

“The Owensville City Hall lobby will be closed as a precaution amid the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) emergency,” the notice stated. “The lobby will reopen once state/local agencies determine that the threat of spreading the virus is minimum. For any payments that need to be dropped off, please use the nightly drop box or call City Hall to make a payment over the phone. For any other assistance, please call 573-437-1027.”

Notice of the Maries County R-1 School District’s decision to halt classes at the end of Tuesday arrived around 4:22 p.m. Tuesday. An story filed earlier in the day for The Republican’s sister paper the Maries County Advocate stated that school system in Vienna planned to be in session until Health Department officials told them to call off classes.

The Maries R-2 Board of Education was holding a emergency meeting Tuesday to discuss potential closure procedures including protocols and plans should those schools, including Bland Middle School, close as others already have. They will go out after Thursday classes until Tuesday, April 7.

Dan McKinney, Hermann Area District Hospital’s administrator, issued a statement Tuesday afternoon saying, “If you think you have COVID-19, call 573-486-2134. Anyone coming into the hospital and clinics will be screened.

“The hospital is working with the state to establish criteria for testing if patients meets state criteria. Any area nurses are encouraged to volunteer to staff call lines.”

As of Saturday, three states bordering Missouri had ordered schools closed for varied periods.  In Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker ordered schools closed beginning March 17 until March 30. Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds on Sunday closed schools for four weeks. Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced all Arkansas schools suspended on-site instruction March 17. Most schools disbanded on-site instruction Monday, allowing one day for school districts to prepare students and faculty for online instruction.

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