Moniteau County's extended stay-home order officially expired Sunday night, following an extended lull in new coronavirus spread among citizens.
The order was adopted as an extension of the statewide order that expired May 3 — county public health officials said at the end of April the county was not meeting the criteria necessary to lessen restrictions. Moniteau County now falls in line with economic reopening guidance from the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) that is set to remain in effect until 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, May 31.
While some restrictions remain, such as visits to nursing homes and other long-term care facilities not being allowed, the DHSS guidance allows for restaurants to resume dine-in service and retail sales businesses to reopen with a fraction of their authorized building code occupancy, depending on square footage.
Moniteau County Health Center Administrator Andrea Kincaid said it is important to note these guidelines represent a "new" normal, not a return to how things were prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Just because the state is reopening, it's not a green light to go," Kincaid said. "It's a soft opening. Everything's not back to normal. We still have to implement social distancing we don't want to have a big surge of cases and overrun the medical system."
Kincaid said this is especially important because of how previously difficult personal protective equipment was to procure during portions of the past couple months. Kincaid said PPE is now more widely available to distribute to employers, health care providers and long-term care facilities — something she said has been a "huge relief" and hopes to avoid being a problem again.
Kincaid said now that Moniteau County's active COVID-19 cases continue to be downward-trending, the focus lies more on helping citizens and businesses safely operate under slightly lightened restrictions.
"We've been having a lot of conversations with food establishments and salons, places like that, about how they can provide services while social distancing," Kincaid said. "We've given out a lot of face shields and surgical masks to employers to assist with them when they are reopening."
Along these lines, Kincaid encouraged patrons to continue taking advantage of drive-thru and curbside pick-up options at restaurants and grocery stores, as well as continued use of face masks in public spaces. Businesses may consider health screenings of patrons and employees, though she said this isn't mandatory.
Kincaid said businesses that are gearing up to resume operation have been open to public health recommendations to ensure the safety of employees and customers alike.
"We've had lots of entities reach out to us for guidance, and we've reached out about doing compliance checks to see how they're doing," Kincaid said. "They're very receptive and want to do the right thing, which is great."
Along with continuing to observe proper social distancing practices, Kincaid said people who feel sick still should try to stay home and avoid contact with others.
"You still (might) need to go out and about to places, but just be aware of your surroundings," Kincaid said. "I'd wear a cloth face covering, just because you're protecting the people around you in case you're asymptomatic."
The Health Center continues to accept requests for cloth face masks through its community mask outreach project, which can be found at moniteaucovid19.com/community-masks.
Kincaid said it's a welcome shift but would remind citizens to be vigilant in helping to prevent any further spread.
"Proceed with caution and don't let down your guard," Kincaid said. "We certainly don't want a surge in cases as people start getting together again. That's probably the most important message we want to be getting out to people."