Independence plans to ease COVID-19 restrictions at restaurants and tourist sites

By Mike Genet
The Examiner

The city of Independence will lift some capacity restrictions April 23 and reopen a couple of its historic tourism sites May 1.

Beginning April 23, bars and restaurants will have no capacity restrictions or social distancing, and businesses frequented by the public will have no capacity limits. Restaurant and bar patrons must be seated when eating and drinking, and face masks must be worn when not actively eating or drinking.

Entertainment and recreation facilities for large gatherings – defined in this case as 300 or more, Mayor Eileen Weir said – must limit capacity enough to maintain six feet of social distancing between patrons or groups.

Masks will still be required in indoor places.

The Independence Utilities Center, which has been open Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, will also be open Fridays starting this week.

More:COVID-19 cases tick upward in Jackson County

On May 1, the city will reopen the Bingham-Waggoner Estate and the Vaile Mansion for public tours. Those facilities, staffed almost exclusively by volunteers, have been closed since the onset of the pandemic. The National Frontier Trails Museum has been available for reserved group tours but will remain closed to the general public.

Currently, the city allows 50 percent capacity. Jackson County, whose health department covers the county outside of Independence and Kansas City, lifted its capacity restrictions last Friday, the same day the state of Missouri opened vaccine eligibility to all adults.

Weir said the low new-case rates in Independence and surrounding area, the rolling 14-day positive test percentage dipping below 5 percent to 3.5 this week, and increased vaccine availability led to the decision to loosen more restrictions. 

“This is an ever-changing situation, and rapidly changing for the better, now that vaccines are available to all adults,” Weir said during Monday’s City Council meeting. “Two weeks after that, we feel we will have more people in the city that are fully vaccinated.”

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The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers communities with positive test rates below 5 percent to have the virus under control.

The city’s public health order, started in February after the city reinstated its health department, had been reviewed every 30 days for possible changes, but this time will be reviewed after 15 days, Weir said.