Gov. Parson issues statewide public health warning that details expectations for Missouri counties

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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo.- After extending the Missouri State of Emergency into March 2021, Governor Parson also released a public health warning that outlines Missouri communities’ expectations.

The expectations include guidance for personal behavior, businesses, and travel. As well as community-level guidance and action plans based on three risk categories:

  • Extreme risk
  • Critical risk
  • Serious risk

“The Governor’s Office will be communicating with mayors, county commissioners, and local leaders across the state to explain and help implement the appropriate guidance in their communities,” a press release states.

The warning states the most effective weapon against COVID-19 is prevention.

“We do not need to lockdown our communities if people do the right things to fight the spread of the virus,” the warning states.

Below are the guidelines for personal behavior, businesses, travel, and county action plans.

Personal Behavior Advisory:

The foundation for our success in fighting COVID-19 remains individuals doing the right thing. To protect our families, our neighbors, our communities, and our ability to continue our daily lives, we need everyone who is able to follow these basic principles:

  • Wear a mask at all times in public and other settings outside your home where social distancing is
  • not possible.
  • Maintain social distance of at least 6 feet wherever possible, and limit close contacts with other
  • individuals to less than 15 minutes.
  • Wash hands multiple times a day.
  • Stay home when sick or if you have symptoms. Self-isolate from other family members.
  • As much as possible, limit your regular interactions to a small group (<10) of family members,
  • friends, and/or co-workers if living in a Category 1 or 2 community.

Business Advisory:

In addition to the basic guidance for individuals, all businesses are advised to implement basic infection prevention measures informed by industry best practices:

  • Modify physical workspaces to maximize and maintain social distancing.
  • Develop an infectious disease preparedness and response plan, including policies and procedures
  • for workforce contact tracing when an employee tests positive for COVID-19.
  • Monitor workforce for indicative symptoms. Symptomatic people should not physically return to
  • work until cleared by a medical provider.
  • Develop, implement, and communicate about workplace flexibilities and protections, including:
    • Encouraging telework whenever possible and feasible with business operations;
    • Working in phases and/or split shifts, if possible;
    • Limiting access to common areas where personnel are likely to congregate and interact; and
    • Ensuring that sick leave policies are flexible and consistent with public health guidance.

Travel Advisory:

We want to minimize the risks of COVID-19 spread within Missouri and across states, especially as we approach the holiday season.

  • Minimize travel outside of Missouri. If traveling outside the state, please follow all guidance and
  • requirements for your destination. Upon return, take as many precautions as possible, wear a mask, and monitor symptoms.
  • If planning travel for gatherings during the holidays, especially those including individuals at high risk, encourage all people to self-isolate or isolate as family units as much as practicable in advance of any such gathering.
  • Do not attend any gatherings, family or otherwise, if you have any symptoms.

Local Government Advisory:

Missouri is a diverse state with diverse communities. A core principle of Missouri government is that we embrace local-level decision-making tailored to each community’s unique needs. At the same time, Missourians live and work together. Most importantly, our healthcare systems are interconnected.

What happens in one county affects its neighbors. Consequently, the State of Missouri government provides a baseline of public health standards and expectations. Local communities can establish higher, more stringent standards above the State’s public health advisory baseline. In light of the COVID-19 challenge, the State of Missouri’s COVID-19 advisory provides expectations for communities based upon their localized public health data. This advisory acknowledges different jurisdictions will face different situations as the COVID-19 challenge evolves.

The warning states that for the county action plans, communities can move down in risk category after two consecutive weeks of meeting the lower category’s criteria.

Category 1 County Action Plan: Extreme Risk

Criteria for county:
• PCR 7-day positivity rate: 15% or above (using CDC method), and
• 7 day case rate per 100k: 350 or above

Business occupancy: Occupancy limits reflective of social distancing.
Social group size: 10 or less.

[NOTE: For the purposes of this advisory, “social group” is defined as any planned or spontaneous event or convening that would bring together a group of people in a single space at the same time, excluding normal business activities, religious services, schools, and school activities, and extended family gatherings.]

Masks: Strongly advised in all offices and businesses where social distancing is not possible.

Category 2 County Action Plan: Critical Risk

Criteria for county:
• PCR 7-day positivity rate: 10-14% (using CDC method), and
• 7 day case rate per 100k: 100-349

Business occupancy: Occupancy limits reflective of social distancing.
Social group size: 25 or less.
Masks: Advised in all offices and businesses with 10+ people where social distancing is not possible.

Category 3 County Action Plan: Serious Risk

Criteria for county:
• PCR 7-day positivity rate: 5-9% (using CDC method), and
• 7 day case rate per 100k: 10-99

Business occupancy: No limits.
Social group size: Limited to maintaining 6 feet distance.
Masks: Advised in all offices and businesses with 10+ people where social distancing is not possible.

According to the Missouri COVID-19 Dashboard, many of the counties in the Ozarks would fall into Category 1. The dashboard shows that Greene County has a positivity rate of 22%, Christian County has a rate of 27%, and Taney County has a positivity rate of almost 32%.

Polk County, with 11%, is one of few in southwest Missouri that would fall into Category 2.

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