County Health agency issues stay at home order

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

HERMANN — Gasconade County residents Tuesday night began dealing with a formal stay-at-home order issued by the county’s Health Department, a move aimed at keeping the coronavirus at bay. …

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County Health agency issues stay at home order

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HERMANN — Gasconade County residents Tuesday night began dealing with a formal stay-at-home order issued by the county’s Health Department, a move aimed at keeping the coronavirus at bay. The order tentatively is scheduled to end at 8 a.m. April 16.

The order comes just days after Presiding Commissioner Larry Miskel, R-Hermann, said he was opposed to such a stringent move, absent an executive order issued by Gov. Mike Parson, noting Gasconade County’s rural nature as compared to more-populous counties.

Indeed, in a letter announcing the stay-at-home order, Health Department Administrator Greg Lara and Board of Trustees Chairman Sharen Speckhals pointed out that as of Monday there have been no positive test for the virus within Gasconade County.

An announcement made Tuesday around noon, however, reported that one positive COVID-19 case had been reported in the county and it was not travel-related, according to the health agency. The location of the virus case was not being released.

“However,” the agency officials wrote in the order, “due to our inherent location in close proximity to neighboring counties and close proximity to larger metropolitan areas such as the greater St. Louis area (which has the large majority of the cases within the state) we feel that out of an abundance of caution it is in the best interest of the health of our county’s residents that we enact this order. After much thought and discussion with the county board of health and other health professionals in the county this decision was made to enact this order in advance of identifying any positive cases within our county.”

The 12-page order allows residents to move about for essential services. An updated version released Tuesday afternoon asked those leaving the county for work to return home and isolate themselves. The full order can be read on The Republican’s website gasconadecountyrepublican.com. The lengthy document describes in detail the types of businesses that can remain operating, with proscribed precautions, such as grocery stores and pharmacies.

The agency recently issued a strong recommendation for eating establishments to shut down their dining rooms, serving food and beverage only through means of carry-out, walk-up, drive-through and delivery service. Food and drinking establishments throughout the county appeared to comply with the recommendation in quick fashion.

The stay-at-home order does contain an enforcement provision. “Violation of or failure to comply with this order is a crime punishable by fine, imprisonment or both,” the order says. However, the document does not specify the type of violation — misdemeanor or otherwise — or how the order will be enforced.

Miskel said Monday night he would be talking with Prosecuting Attorney Mary Weston about the enforceability of the order. The county’s top administrator has repeatedly said that third-class counties such as Gasconade County do not have ordinance-making authority and is unclear about the enforcement of an order such as the one issued by the Health Department.

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