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City leaders further loosen COVID-19 restrictions

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Officials with the city of Springfield announced COVID-19 restrictions would be further relaxed starting this weekend.

During a Wednesday afternoon news conference, the city outlined three additional Road to Recovery phases, starting May 23, that gradually allow residents to re-engage in business and community activities through July 23.

The plan, available for viewing on the city's website, relies on an occupancy formula for entertainment venues, religious institutions and other organizations, as well as weddings, funerals and concerts.

Under the formula, organizers of an event venue or a church that's more than 10,000 square feet would be required to take the square footage of the building, divide it by 30 and then multiply it by 25%. For example, if a building was 20,000 square feet, that would be around 167 occupants at any given time, starting May 23. Starting with Phase III on June 15, the formula will be changed, requiring organizers to multiply by 50% instead of 25%.

City Manager Jason Gage indicated at the news conference that the formula essentially equates to occupants remaining 6 feet apart.

For essential retail and nonessential stores and businesses, occupancy is unchanged in Phase II from the first phase. Organizations are required to calculate the allowed number of people based on a 10% or 25% occupancy formula, depending on the size of the facility. That jumps to a 50% formula for Phase III on June 15.

Gage said after the fourth phase ends July 23, officials would take a pause to determine future phases.

Starting May 23, public gatherings also will change. The city's guidance indicates there will be "no special events of more than 50 people on city property or streets requiring a permit per city code." In the current phase, public gatherings are limited to no more than 25 people, with no mention of city property.

Under the Phase II order, masks are still required at personal care businesses, such as barbershops. Occupancy limitations remain in place, using the formula mentioned in the news conference.

"We feel confident that it's the right time to enter Phase II," Springfield-Greene County Health Department Director Clay Goddard said. "We feel good about where we are as a region."

As of this morning, there were 111 confirmed cases in Greene County and another 13 probable cases. Ten cases have been added since the stay-at-home order was lifted May 4.

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