Springfield City Council unanimously passed an ordinance to prohibit public gatherings of 50 or more people during an emergency meeting this afternoon, when Mayor Ken McClure also declared a civil emergency.
The ordinance prohibits public gatherings except at day care facilities, educational institutions and business operations in Springfield, as well as exceptions made by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Gov. Mike Parson, according to bill documents. The ordinance also establishes a penalty for violating the ordinance. Council approved the measure 7-0 with Councilwoman Jan Fisk absent.
The penalty would be up to a $1,000 fine or up to 180 days in jail upon conviction, said city attorney Rhonda Lewsader at the meeting. She said the civil emergency will last for 30 days.
Councilman Craig Hosmer said council should consider reducing density in restaurants and bars.
“It doesn’t make any sense to have 150 people at a bar,” Hosmer said. “If 50 people is a problem, 150 at a bar isn’t a good thing.”
Springfield-Greene County Health Department Director Clay Goddard said at the meeting that the department is working on guidance recommendations to public-facing businesses, such as restaurants and movie theaters. The Health Department on Friday had recommended that group events of 250 or more be postponed.
“We, at this point, do not have evidence of community spread, but we also don't have enough testing bandwidth through our system to provide accurate community surveillance,” Goddard said. “I think we have to work under the assumption that community spread is occurring.”
Councilman Richard Ollis said he supported the ordinance but thinks council isn’t moving fast enough.
"I think time is of the essence ... We can look around the globe and see what’s happened in other places. I don't believe we’re moving quickly enough," Ollis said.
McClure said council can consider other steps moving forward.
“Right now, I think it makes good sense to follow the CDC guidelines,” he said.
Council also held a closed meeting prior to the emergency meeting. The Greene County Commission also is planning an emergency meeting this afternoon to potentially declare a state of emergency due to the coronavirus, according to a news release.
The last civil emergency was declared in 2007 during an ice storm, city officials said during the meeting.
In response to the respiratory virus, Parson on Friday signed an executive order declaring a state of emergency in Missouri.
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The congregation at Crossway Baptist Church is building a children’s wing at the west end of the church, and beginning in 2024, it will be home to a Christian academy.