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Columbia City Council Votes to Uphold Health Order Extension

Health Director Stephanie Browning’s extension of the COVID-19 health order has been ratified by the Columbia City Council.

Council members voted unanimously to uphold the order— set by the Columbia/Boone County Department of Public Health & Human Services — through Oct. 20. It requires restaurants and bars that serve alcohol to close by 10:30 p.m.

The extended health order was first issued by Browning on Oct. 1.

Browning said her primary motivation for extending the order was to increase the odds that kids in Columbia can return to in-person schooling.

Mayor Brian Treece agreed.

“I think extending this for another two weeks gives the public schools the time they need,” Treece said. 

Browning cited the increasing hospitalization rates as further evidence that the order should be extended.

Two residents who work in the restaurant and bar industry came to oppose the extension, saying they had already lost a good portion of their incomes because of the COVID-19-related restrictions. The directives have lead to limited hours and lower occupancy limits for restaurants. And earlier times to stop serving alcohol has cut a lot of the evening revenue.

“We’ve been hit really hard by the COVID crisis,” Jerry Fast said of those who work at restaurants and bars. 

“The city frequently brags about the options for nightlife downtown and the vibrancy of it, but it is on the brink of imploding,” Fast said.

Treece empathized. “It’s not where we want to be, either," he told Fast. “We understand that it’s been tough.

The service-industry workers questioned whether establishments that serve alcohol late at night can be directly tied to new COVID-19 cases and doubted the health order would prevent new cases.