Jackson County joins in loosening COVID-19 rules

By The Examiner staff

Jackson County has loosened some of its public health guidelines starting Friday, a week after Kansas City and Independence decided to change some of their COVID-19 rules.

In a joint announcement Thursday afternoon  with Johnson and Wyandotte counties in Kansas, Jackson County officials said they will allow restaurants and bars to resume their normal operating hours to serve food and drinks, while some gathering and capacity restrictions remain.

Indoor and outdoor seating at tables remains limited to no more than 10 people in Jackson County, as well as masks and social distancing and 50 percent capacity for all businesses frequented by the public. Previously, establishments had to stop serving at midnight, and patrons had to leave by 12:30 a.m.

Groups holding gatherings of fewer than 50 people are no longer required to submit a gathering protocol for approval from the county Health Department, but protocols are still required for gatherings greater than 50.

Gatherings include, but are not limited to, non-essential business activities such as weddings, funerals, lectures, meetings, parades, fairs, festivals, sporting events, and performances.

Independence last week removed gathering limits for faith and religious services, though faith groups should still urge masks, social distancing, regular hand washing and cleaning shared surfaces. Faith organizations and entertainment venues also do not need to submit protocols for gatherings, and entertainment venues can have 50 percent capacity and submit protocols for possible gatherings beyond that.

Bars and restaurants could resume normal operating hours but remain limited to 50 percent capacity, with the usual masks and social distancing guidelines. There is no limit to the size of parties of patrons.

Kansas City had announced similar relaxed restrictions, as did Clay County last week.

In a statement, Jackson County Executive Frank White Jr. said he was grateful for local government leaders who have continued to work together with public health restrictions, but also noted that with a COVID-19 variant appearing in nearby wastewater systems, people must still be vigilant with the basics of masks, social distancing and hand washing.

“While we have relaxed some restrictions in our order, we cannot let our guard down,” White said.