As expected, Jackson County released its guidelines Wednesday for phase one of reopening after more than a month of pandemic-related stay-at-home orders, with many occupancy limits and closings still in place.
The new guidelines take effect Monday, and the county says they will be in place at least two weeks until further reopenings are allowed.
Nonessential businesses, including retail stores, can reopen, though occupancy will be limited to 25 percent (based on fire codes) for locations smaller than 10,000 square feet and 10 percent for locations larger than 10,000 square feet.
Restaurants and bars selling food can have dine-in customers, though curbside and pickup service is still encouraged, and the same occupancy limits apply.
Personal services – salons, beauty shops, barber shops – can take customers by appointment only.
In general, officials still encourage people – particularly senior citizens and those with underlying health issues – to stay home or work from home if possible, maintain social distancing, practice good hand hygiene and wear masks in public.
Other items of note for phase one:
• Entertainment venues, gyms and fitness centers and outdoor playgrounds remain closed.
• Gatherings for church services, funerals and weddings are limited to 10 people. Drive-in services are allowed with social distancing.
• Elective medical procedures are allowed, given the facility has an adequate supply of personal protective equipment.
County Executive Frank White Jr. told county legislators Monday that the county is prepared to re-enact some restrictions if cases rise sharply.
“That’s why you have the different phases,” White said. “So you see how this works for two or three weeks. … And if it does spike to the point that we feel is serious then we can always go back to where we were at that point, based on the data.”
County officials said there will be at least two more phases before the county is fully reopened. Before moving to a second phase, the county wants to see:
• The number of new COVID-19 cases has declined for at least 14 days.
• Rapid diagnostic testing capacity sufficient to test at least all people with COVID-19 symptoms, as well as close contacts and essential workers.
• The health-care system is able to safely care for all patients, including enough supply of PPE for workers.
• Sufficient public health capacity to conduct contact tracing for all new cases and close contacts.
Mayors from Blue Springs, Grandview, Independence, Lee’s Summit, Raytown and Sugar Creek reviewed the proposed guidelines earlier this week and offered their suggestions to county officials, and the county also solicited citizens’ feedback with a short, online survey. As of Wednesday, that survey had received more than 9,000 responses, the county said. Independence Mayor Eileen Weir said the county mayors will continue to collaborate and offer input with the county for reopening.
“I like to see Jackson County stand in a unified way,” Blue Springs Mayor Carson Ross said Tuesday, referring to the county largely aligning with Johnson and Wyandotte counties in Kansas. “All these different dates are confusing to people because jurisdictional lines are invisible.”
“It’s a very complicated, complex issue,” he said, “and there’s not an easy answer and not a one size fits all.”
The city of Independence said it will reopen city buildings and facilities no earlier than June 1 and is developing specific reopening plans. The city already announced last month that the Adventure Oasis Water Park will not open this year.