The Reporter covers Miller, Morgan and Camden County in Central Missouri's Lake of the Ozarks and is published once per week on Wednesdays.

 

Published April 1, 2020

Are some LO businesses ignoring state COVID orders?


LAKE OZARK – Are some city businesses ignoring the state order regarding social distancing?

The city issued a press release last Friday stating that city officials are “urging” bars, restaurants and other businesses to follow CDC and area health department recommendations limiting the number of patrons in the on-going effort to curb the spread of COVID-19.

“Urging” but not enforcing and the release stated that “The Lake Ozark Police Department and Lake Ozark City Hall are not the primary enforcement agencies in such matters. Anyone with complaints should call their local health department offices.”

Though Camden County did issue an order, Miller County has not (as of press time) and the city is located in both counties, so businesses in the city limits in Miller County can ignore the Camden County order.

“There were allegations that a handful of businesses on The Strip were open Wednesday afternoon and evening with well more than the 10-person maximum limit of individuals and violating the six-foot social distancing recommendation,” a city spokesman said.

However, Missouri Governor Mike Parson did issue an order that applies statewide – and Miller County is in the state – not allowing more than 10 people to meet.

Even though the order is relatively clear, to some, apparently, it is open to interpretation.

“Orders use such terms as ‘shall avoid’ and ‘recommendation’ leave the social distancing and gathering rules open to interpretation.

The exact wording of the Governor’s order says:

“The Director of the Department of Health and Senior Services, finding it necessary to protect public health and prevent the further spread of COVID-19, pursuant to the authority granted under section 192.020, RSMo, hereby orders the following:

1. In accordance with the guidelines from the President and the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, every person in the State of Missouri shall avoid social gatherings of more than ten (10) people. For purposes of this Order, “social gatherings” shall mean any planned or spontaneous event or convening that would bring together more than ten (10) people in a single space at the same time.
2. In accordance with the guidelines from the President and the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, every person in the State of Missouri shall avoid eating or drinking at restaurants, bars, or food courts; provided, however, that the use of drive-thru, pickup, or delivery options is allowed throughout the duration of this Order.

It has been ordered that everybody in the state of Missouri – including Miller County – “shall avoid social gatherings of more than ten people.” That clearly means that gatherings of more than ten are not allowed.

However, number two can read as if in some cases it is allowed.

“…every person in the State of Missouri shall avoid eating or drinking at restaurants, bars, or food courts; provided, however, that the use of drive-thru, pickup, or delivery options is allowed throughout the duration of this Order.

So what if a drive-thru, pickup or delivery at a certain bar or restaurant is not available? That means they can have more than 10 people?

City officials are not stressing the following of the Governor’s orders, but merely suggesting them, according to the press release.

“We can’t stress enough the importance of keeping our public safe and we appreciate businesses voluntarily closing to the public,” City Administrator Dave Van Dee said. “Even though there is no official order to close we hope businesses use common sense as we move forward in containing the coronavirus. We encourage curbside and pickup service rather than gatherings on decks or inside buildings.”

He also stated that businesses can continue to be open and the Governor’s “order” can be merely a suggestion.

“Businesses have the right to continue to do business,” Van Dee said. “But we encourage businesses to use good judgment in offering their services. Many have been able to ‘think outside the box’ and provide their products in unique ways and still adhere to the health department recommendations. But, again, we strongly discourage gatherings of 10 people or more in one location. Businesses and patrons need to self-regulate.”

The city also wanted people to know where the city stands in this situation.

• The city of Lake Ozark has not imposed any ordinance relating to private establishments nor ordered any private establishment to close due to the virus.
• The city supports the directives of county and state health officials and recommends that residents and business owners adhere to them.
• The Lake Ozark Police Department and Lake Ozark City Hall are not the primary enforcement agencies in such matters. Anyone with complaints should call their local health department offices: Miller County Health Department at 573-369-2359; or the Camden County Health Department at 573-346-5479, Ext. 204.
• Anyone ordering from curbside or carryout restaurant is asked to remain in their vehicle until a business employee brings the item(s) to their car.
• The lake area is seeing more out-of-the-area residents coming to the lake to enjoy their second homes. While they are welcome, those visitors need to make sure they understand the recommendations as they apply locally since their home-based rules might be different. Again, checking cityoflakeozark.net, and the Miller County and Camden County Health Department websites will provide accurate and up-to-date information.

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