Joplin City Council lifted certain COVID-19 restrictions as part of their Response and Recovery Plan at their meeting Monday night. Council voted to lift the 250-person restriction in outdoor gatherings and to lift the six-foot restriction in businesses and places of worship.
Council passed lifting the 250-person restriction in outdoor gatherings with a unanimous vote. The lift on the six-foot restrictions in businesses and places of worship drew more discussion from council members, passing with a vote of six in favor and three opposed. While these specific restrictions have been lifted, Joplin is still in Phase 2—Step 4 of the Recovery and Response Plan. Joplin Mayor Ryan Stanley commented on lifting these restrictions.
“In lifting the limit on outdoor gatherings, we really feel like outdoor gatherings are relatively safe as long as we can maintain some degree of social distancing, we’re still going to encourage face coverings in that,” Stanley said. “But on the restaurants and on the places of worship, I do think that there are some businesses that are having a hard time following those ordinances and still staying healthy and strong. And there’s some businesses that have become really lax in that. And so, I think it’s a move towards not only feeling like we’re comfortable in expanding and opening it up because we feel like our numbers are improving, but at the same time if we’re not going to enforce it well then we should not have that restriction that some are being impaired by.”
As the pandemic is not over and there’s still the possibility of COVID-19 case numbers increasing as restrictions are lifted, Stanley said council keeps that in consideration with every move they make.
“We are worried about that in every decision we make,” Stanley said. “This has been kind of chasing a ghost, and so we’re constantly worried about ‘If I do this is it going to create another tradeoff involved with that.’ And so, number one, we try to make measured, thought-out decisions. At the same time, know that if we start to see things get out of control then we can always kind of shift gears down the road. But I can tell you today, our numbers are tangibly and predictably moving in the right direction and we would hope they would continue to do that.”
Ryan Talken, Joplin health department director, presented on the updated COVID-19 numbers and information for the city, saying the numbers “continue to look well.” He reported that 20 persons are in isolation, four of whom are Joplin residents. Additionally, the city now has about five cases per day, which is a deduction from last week. Joplin also has a positivity rate of 5.34 percent of the population, compared to 6.94 percent last week.
Regarding vaccines, Talken said that they are still not getting a lot of vaccine, but they are getting more than they were. He also reported that 12.6 percent of the Joplin population has received a COVID-19 vaccine, which is an increased number. Local vaccine clinics are also scheduled for this week, as a National Guard clinic will be held Tuesday and Wednesday in Carthage. Additionally, the second clinic for those Joplin residents to receive their second dose—that was canceled during the winter weather—has been rescheduled for Thursday and Friday this week, and this will take place at Missouri Southern State University.
In discussing the COVID-19 variants that have developed in the country, Talken said “we are watching that.” He confirmed that the United Kingdom variant was reported in northern Missouri. Additionally, he said that the CDC is still reporting that the current COVID-19 vaccines are effective against these variants.
Lynn Onstot, Joplin public information officer, presented that Joplin’s annual tornado drill will be Tuesday, March 2 at 10 a.m. She added that it is suggested for residents to download a mobile app to be alerted of severe weather such as tornadoes, in case they are in an area where they cannot hear the sirens. Onstot also said that there will be a presentation in honor of Joplin’s Connor Hotel’s 148th birthday held March 23. This presentation will take place 6:30 to 8 p.m. in the City Council Chambers by Chad Stebbins, who will focus on his new book “Joplin’s Connor Hotel.” Additionally, 4th Street at School Avenue will be closed March 15 to 29. Onstot asked that Joplin residents use alternate routes.
A Council Bill passed under emergency ordinances that approved a change of job description of the health department’s position “Lead Peer Counselor” to “Breastfeeding Peer counselor Coordinator.” This bill along with three others passed with unanimous vote.
Under first reading for ordinances, a Council Bill passed from first reading to second and third that approves an agreement with G & G Construction Company for construction of a senior center Meals on Wheels zone improvement project. This bill along with one other Council Bill passed under first reading with unanimous vote to advance to second and third.
Two Council Bills under public hearings also passed with unanimous vote.