Missouri Gov. Mike Parson announced on Monday that every business throughout the state will be allowed to open on Monday, May 4.
This is Parson’s first phase in his “gradual” and “strategic” reopening plan that he said will lead to economic recovery.
“All of Missouri’s businesses, employers and employees are vital to our state’s economy and well-being,” Parson said at a press briefing on Monday. “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.”
Parson said social distancing will still be a top priority in his new order, though there are no longer any restrictions on social gatherings. There will be occupancy limits and possibly some protective equipment requirements for some business. He didn’t lay out details at his briefing but mentioned it would be less orders from his administration and more consumer driven.
“I think the people are going to demand that,” said Parson. “I think when people go out there, they're going to want to make sure they feel comfortable and they feel safe. So, I think businesses will have to adapt to that, and I think the consumer will.”
Parson reiterated that counties and cities throughout the state may create and enforce their own ordinances as long as their rules and regulations are more strict than the statewide orders. He has specifically mentioned harder hit areas like St. Louis and Kansas City may need to reopen at a slower pace.
“They can do stricter guidelines,” Parson said. “They can’t be more relaxed than what ours are.”
The order will remain in effect until Sunday, May 31 and will be re-evaluated before it expires.
Rob Dixon, director of the Missouri Department of Economic Development, said this isn’t a return to normal, but a beginning of a new normal.
“As the governor has mentioned, reopening our economy isn’t like flipping a switch on and off,” said Dixon. “It’s going to be a gradual process that plays out in different ways in different communities across our state.”
Dixon said it's important to follow the governor’s order but suggested implementing some more rules and guidelines when possible.
“We encourage businesses to implement basic infection measures, including the use of protective equipment, temperature screenings, testing and disinfection,” he said. “Businesses should consider modifying their physical workspaces to maximize social distancing by adding barriers or spreading work stations apart.”
Dixon also suggested allowing people to continue working from home or allowing them to return to work in phases.
Businesses are encouraged to develop “an infectious disease preparedness and response plan.” Dr. Randall Williams, director of the Department of Health and Senior Services, said this includes policies for contact tracing when an employee tests positive.
“Not only do we have to have the ability to test, but we also have to have the ability to go out and do the contact tracing,” Williams said.
Williams said on Monday, 15 people from the department were working around the state with contact tracing. Williams said the state’s team is currently larger than 15, but he did not give further specifics. He said the department continues to meet to “develop a more robust capacity” by utilizing technology and the federal stimulus dollars available.
Some details from the order
Businesses engaging in retail sales, including grocery stores, are subject to the same occupancy limits as laid out in the original social distancing order. For locations with less than 10,000 square feet, they should maintain 25% or less of the authorized fire or building code occupancy. For larger locations, it must be 10% or less.
If businesses have a waiting room, the order encourages each location to implement a system where people can wait in their vehicles or pre-schedule appointments. When this is not possible, it’s suggested to develop “public health and safety measures” using the order as a guide.
Non-emergency health care is allowed to continue, including eye and dental exams. Dentists and optometrists are not required to follow social distancing guidelines.
Restaurants are allowed to open dining rooms, but it’s suggested to regulate self-serving salad bars and buffets, use disposable menus, and to space out tables in accordance with the six-feet social distancing guidelines.
“Social distancing will be a part of the big scope of that,” said Parson regarding how restaurants should maintain social distancing in dining rooms. “Whether that’s a family table of four or six, whatever it might be, but separate them from there.”
Houses of worship are allowed to resume in-person services. However, it is suggested that handshaking and shared communion cups should be avoided, and streaming services when possible should continue.
Movie theatres are allowed to open, and stadiums or other large-venue events can resume but seating should be spaced in accordance with the six-feet distancing guidelines. This applies to concerts, sports events, funerals, weddings and school graduations.