KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Beginning Monday, Missouri will be open for business again.
The statewide restrictions on social gatherings will be gone and every business can reopen under Missouri Gov. Mike Parson’s plan, though the tighter restrictions and extended stay-at-home orders many metropolitan areas have enacted will remain in effect.
Kansas City, Missouri, and Jackson and Platte county residents remain under a stay-at-home order through May 15, but there will no longer be restrictions — aside from a recommendation to adhere to the social-distancing guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which recommend people stay at least six feet apart — in Cass and Clay counties.
"The guidelines the governor proposed today are not the ones that are made for either urban or suburban areas," Kansas City, Missouri, Mayor Quinton Lucas told 41 Action News. "I think they are made for rural parts of Missouri."
According to a release from Parson’s office regarding the “Show Me Strong Recovery,” “Missouri will gradually begin to reopen economic and social activity” on May 4.
In Phase One, which takes effect next Monday, the governor’s plan calls for “no limitations on social gatherings, as long as necessary precautions are taken and six feet of distance can be maintained between individuals and/or families.”
Missouri is banking on expanded testing capacity, expanded access to personal protective equipment, plans to expand hospital and health care system capacity if needed and an improved “ability to predict potential outbreaks using Missouri's public health data” as the foundation of his reopening plan.
Parson’s office also announced that Phase One will last through May 31.
The state still is advising people who feel sick to stay home and promoting basic hygiene principles — frequent hand-washing, not touching your face, sneezing/coughing into an elbow, disinfecting frequently touched surfaces — that have become a common COVID-19 refrain.
As for businesses, Missouri is asking for the adoption of several recommendations through the end of May, but Parson and other state officials repeatedly stressed the word 'guidance' as opposed to 'mandate' during a press conference about the planned reopening:
- Implementing infection prevention protocols.
- Modifying work spaces to encourage social-distancing.
- Minimizing business travel.
- Developing a preparedness and response plan for a possible outbreak.
- Requiring sick workers to receive clearance to return to work from a doctor.
- Encouraging work from home when possible.
- Phasing in a return to work or adopting split shifts.
- Limiting access to common areas at work, where employees might congregate.
- Ensuring flexible sick-leave policies and practices.
“All of Missouri’s businesses, employers, and employees are vital to our state’s economy and well-being,” Parson said. “Opening these businesses is going to look very different for awhile, but I’m confident Missourians will abide by the guidelines as we move forward.”
Under Phase One of the plan, retail stores will be required to limit the number of customers based on the square footage of the building.
Stores less than 10,000 square feet must maintain 25% or less of the authorized fire or building code occupancy, while stores larger than 10,000 square feet must maintain 10% or less of the authorized fire or building code occupancy.
Restaurants can open their dining rooms, so long as tables and seating are spaced out according to social distance requirements. Food court establishments can operate, but the social distancing and communal seating requirements will "prevent them from offering seating," according to the governor's plan guidelines.
Businesses that require employees to be within six feet of another employee or customer, such as barber shops, are allowed to open. The governor's guidelines suggest employees follow guidance set by the CDC, and industry best practice standards.
Parson acknowledged that COVID-19 remains a threat in the state despite his commitment to reopening the economy as soon as possible — relying, in part, on federal guidance, including President Donald Trump’s desire for states to get workers back on the job.
“As we begin to reopen, we will be prepared, but the virus is still here,” he said in a statement.