The Franklin County Commission has decided to limit all restaurants and bars to carryout and delivery service only effective close of business, or 12:00 a.m. Wednesday, March 18, until noon April 17.
This mandate includes businesses with on-site consumption of food or alcohol.
The announcement was made Tuesday afternoon in a joint press conference with officials from St. Louis city, St. Charles, St. Louis and Franklin counties.
Presiding Commissioner Tim Brinker said the closures are necessary to limit the spread of coronavirus and acting in unison with neighboring counties would limit the number of people visiting Franklin County due to closures elsewhere.
On Tuesday, the Franklin County Commission declared a state of emergency in response to the coronavirus outbreak.
Brinker said the declaration is necessary to secureemergency funds from the state and federal governments while preparing for and fighting the pandemic.
Because of the fluidity of the ongoing situation, the county commission did not officially adjourn its regular meeting Tuesday, but instead went into recess, so decisions can be made when they are needed without holding a special meeting of the commission.
Brinker said he has been speaking daily with his counterparts in neighboring counties regarding the closure of restaurants, bars and other businesses in the county.
“As of now, nothing is off the table,” he said. “This is totally new territory. We are analyzing and scrutinizing everything that takes place in the region and county.”
Brinker added in conjunction with the emergency declaration, the county emergency operations center will be activated mostly in support of the county health department’s efforts.
Although county offices will not be closing, steps are being mandated to stagger shifts to keep employees in offices from infecting each other, or patrons if the virus should be contracted.
“Foot traffic in our county buildings has already decreased,” Brinker said. “We are doing everything we can to protect our employee base and still provide services to the citizens.”
Brinker first made the emergency announcement Monday at a meeting with superintendents of both public and private schools in Franklin County.
Currently, there are eight confirmed coronavirus cases in the state of Missouri and four people have tested negative in Franklin County since this time last week.
The emergency declaration follows suit of neighboring counties of St. Louis and St. Charles, and St. Louis city which declared emergencies late last week, as well as the state of Missouri as a whole.
“This isn’t being done to cause alarm,” Brinker said. “The more we do now, the less impact it will have later.”
Although he did not issue an official order, Brinker said he’s in full agreement with the governor to limit all gatherings to less than 50 people and urged school districts to close for the next few weeks at least.
“Currently, we have no positive cases, but that can change overnight,” he said. “We have to go where the experts’ lead. Although it will cause a great deal of pain, today’s precautions could lead to tomorrow’s cure.”
Brinker added now is the time to pause and take steps to minimize impact and stay ahead of the virus spread.
“We all get paid to make decisions,” Brinker said. “Right or wrong our responsibility is to err on the side of caution. Our worst case scenario would be someone passing due to our inaction.”
The last time Franklin County declared a state of emergency was during the April 2017 flooding event. Before that was December 2015, also for flooding.
It is still unclear how the state and federal reimbursement will work this time around since this is a public health emergency as opposed to a natural disaster.
When the meeting with school administrations was held midday Monday, there was one coronavirus test pending in Franklin County.
This individual has some ties with the St. Clair School District and classes there were canceled Monday and Tuesday.
Brinker said this patient was self quarantined and proper precautions would be taken until a positive or negative test result was received at the county health department.
Three other county patients tested negative for the coronavirus last week.
Also last week, all coronavirus testing was being conducted only at the state health lab in Jefferson City. One of the patients was swabbed at Mercy Hospital Washington and the other two had their nasal swabs done at medical facilities in St. Louis County.
“We have to presume positive, until proven otherwise,” Brinker said. “With all of our cases, we have had 100 percent cooperation with self quarantine.”
Last week, the county’s legal counsel prepared a document for residents who may be quarantined. If well enough to go home, they will be confined to their homes or a designated quarantine location by penalty of misdemeanor charge.