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The City of California Board of Aldermen last week discussed the state of COVID-19 in Moniteau County during a special session, eventually approving the adoption of guidance regarding what city supervisors should do when employees test positive for the virus.

After plenty of discussion, the board approved adopting guidance disseminated by the Moniteau County Health Center as city policy in a 5-1 vote; alderwoman Lorrie Grimes was the lone dissenting vote. The policy would recognize that the same COVID-prevention and quarantining measures observed in places like the school system, for example, would now extend to city employees. Board members noted during last Tuesday's meeting that it had become difficult to navigate instances where employees were testing positive without universal guidance for city supervisors to operate of off.

Those issues, board members expressed last week, largely centered around a lack of set protocol for quarantine periods when employees have tested positive for COVID, and when exactly spread-mitigating measures such as mask wearing should be observed.

"I don't think we really have a choice," alderwoman Resa Dudley said of the issue last week. "We have supervisors all over town who don't know what to do when this happens."

Alderman Lanny Ash agreed, and said last week he thought the city should mandate the Health Center's guidance as city policy and disseminate that information to city supervisors and employees, thus creating a more universal understanding of what should be done in such instances moving forward.

The city's newly-adopted guidance is consistent with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations, Health Center Administrator Andrea Kincaid noted at the meeting. Other representatives with the Health Center, including environmental specialist Darrell Hendrickson, were on hand to answer board members' questions about COVID protocols last week.

Their expertise came into play during the board's discussion prior to their vote — California mayor Rich Green expressed his belief that vaccines are the most effective way to stop the spread of COVID, but also said he didn't think masks were "effective" in mitigating the spread of the virus and voiced frustration at how frequently CDC recommendations have changed during the pandemic. Kincaid and others contended that masks were in fact an effective tool for preventing the spread of COVID — especially in protecting children who can't receive a vaccine — and that the baseline guidance from the CDC has always remained the same. Some elements, she said, were bound to change more often due to the developing scientific understanding of the virus and its mutations like the delta variant.

Discussion between board members last week indicated that moving forward, they'll now expect to see a negative COVID test from employees who have previously tested positive or believe they have been exposed before they can return to work. Green also expressed that he would like to encourage — but not require — vaccinations among city employees. The group spent some time discussing whether instances such as an employee refusing to wear a mask when not vaccinated and possibly exposed should lead to them having to use their sick leave if they miss time to quarantine, but agreed that such a decision should wait until September's regular meeting so city supervisors are able to give their input.

The Board of Aldermen's decision comes as COVID cases continue to surge in Moniteau County. Active cases stand at 101 as of press time Tuesday, and the Health Center reported another death due to the virus Friday. In total, there have been 2,558 cases recorded throughout the county since March of 2020.

Along with its COVID discussion, the board also approved general revenue and park tax levy rates for the next year. The approved rates — the general revenue tax levy of $0.4102 per $100 assessed valuation of personal and real estate property, and the park tax levy of $0.1620 per $100 assessed valuation of all property within city limits — are both slightly decreased compared to last year's rates of $0.4239 and $0.1674, respectively.

Finally, the board approved an ordinance establishing guidelines for the use and placement of shipping containers within city limits, specifically regarding those placed in residential or commercial areas as housing or storage units. That ordinance was approved, and existing storage units will be grandfathered in under the new guidelines.

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