COLUMBIA— The Boone County Health Department will ask Columbia City Council to ratify the health order extension, requiring bars and alcohol-serving restaurants in Columbia and Boone County to close by 10:30 p.m.
City Council will consider ratification at the Oct. 5 City Council meeting.
The 10:30 p.m. order, known as 2020-11, became effective on Sept. 18 and was set to expire at 11:59 p.m. Oct. 6.
However, last Thursday the health department issued another order, 2020-12 and 2020-12(c), which extends the 10:30 p.m. close rule to entertainment venues, bars and restaurants serving alcohol through Oct. 20.
Since the initial 10:30 p.m. order was issued on Sept. 16, the extension would keep the order in place through Oct. 20—a total of 35 days. According to a City of Columbia press release, City Council must approve the health order if in effect for more than 21 days.
Scott Clardy, Assistant Director for Columbia/Boone County Public Health, said the department recommends extending the order for several reasons.
“It appears what we’re doing is working,” Clardy said. “The number of new cases is coming down, but kind of as a concern, the number of tests are coming down too. So if you test less people, you’re going to find less cases. So we wanted to go through another 14-day incubation period to see if that trend of lesser cases continued or not—before we decided for sure that it really was working, and it wasn’t just an artifact of less testing.”
Clardy said as of Friday, Oct. 2, there have been more hospitalizations, which shows the city may not be ready to ease restrictions. Lastly, he said the county needs to keep transmission down, so children can return to public schools.
Clardy said the health department reassesses every two to three weeks whether to ease restrictions. The extended order is set to last only two weeks—instead of the usual three weeks—enough for the health department to assess another 14-day incubation period.
“We’re not going to just go from 10:30 to you can stay open as long as you want,” Clardy said. “It’s going to be a very incremental increase—a decrease in restrictions.”
The Columbia Chamber of Commerce sent a letter on Sept. 29 to the health department and City of Columbia asking for the ordinance to expire or be modified.
“We’ve seen massive drops in the numbers, as was part of the concept of this (the health order),” Matt McCormick, President of the Columbia Chamber of Commerce, said. “So we sent a letter out to the city and the county asking for this order to expire. Or if they feel that an order still needs to be in place, have a compromise of maybe backing the bars and restaurants up to midnight.”
With a drop in numbers and with football season in full swing, McCormick sees the order’s extension as problematic for businesses. The 10:30 p.m. order, if extended, would impact homecoming weekend for the University of Missouri on Oct. 17.
“Football time, especially for our bars and restaurants, it’s kind of their Christmas if you will,” McCormick said.
Robby Saunders, who has worked in the restaurant and bar industry for over a year, said the order impacted his ability to make more tips, but he supports the order extending from a health perspective.
“I feel like the 10:30 order definitely helps stop the spread of COVID because people have a lot less time that their spending in public, instead of being out until 1 or 1:30 in the morning” Saunders said. “They usually will come in a little earlier than normal, then are out the door exactly at 10:30.”
The Columbia City Council meeting will start at 7 p.m. Monday. You can watch the meeting here.