The Nodaway County Sheriff’s Office and Maryville Public Safety can make arrests on residents who do not follow statewide COVID-19 mandates, according to an ordinance approved March 26 by the county commission.
Actions that could result in arrest include gathering in a group of more than 10 people, eating in a restaurant, bar or food court, maintaining less than six feet of space for an extended period of time between unrelated individuals, visiting nursing homes and long-term care facilities or assisted living homes unless providing critical assistance.
The ordinance allows for citizens to travel to work, shop for groceries and utilize gas stations, parks, banks or government buildings as long as necessary precautions are taken to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.
However, many public buildings throughout Maryville, like city hall, are seeing modified hours or limiting walk-ins by the general public. It is suggested that citizens make appointments over the phone, and being out in parks or other public places for extended periods of time is also advised against.
Presiding Commissioner of Nodaway County Bill Walker said there has been discussion on the topic of an official ordinance for the past week.
“We did the ordinance today so the law enforcement would have some authority to back (state mandates),” Walker said. “So, if someone had a large gathering, they would have the authority to shut them down.”
Walker said the commission supports the state mandates and to enforce social distancing, but did not intend to extend school closures when approving the March 26 ordinance.
“We can resend this ordinance at any time,” Walker said. “If the schools came and decided they wanted to go back mid-April, we would likely end the ordinance.”
In accordance with the commission’s decision, all Nodaway County school districts have announced closure through the month of April. District leaders originally planned to meet April 6 to discuss whether or not to return, but as several districts began confirming an extended closure via social media, schools seem to remain adhering to guidelines provided by state and local government.
Nodaway County Sheriff Randy Strong said the commission drafted the ordinance in a positive light, as a way for the community to be held to the same standard Missouri Gov. Mike Parson has set.
“What the county enacted is the same as what the governor has enacted and is the same as what the city has enacted,” Strong said. “(The county commissioners) were smart and left the ordinance open and flexible.”
Strong said the main focus of the ordinance is to keep local families safe from the potential spread of the coronavirus, and that there are no plans to actively seek out misconduct, but that enforcement will follow with ordinary policing if violations are observed.
The decision to enact an official law county-wide, shortly after a city decision to mandate social distancing, received heavy criticism by residents on several social media platforms the evening of March 26. Strong said he hears concerns, but is driven to enact the law as it stands.
“I am disappointed in the way some are acting,” Strong said. “Maybe they can’t grasp how dangerous this is. … and I know some have at least temporarily lost their jobs. They are under a lot of pressure and I understand that, but everyone else is too. We have to remember to be kind to one another.”
Strong also said he knows there may be some who refuse to comply and act out in egregious ways, which is the largest motivator for an official county ordinance.
As separation seeps into the normalities of daily life, Walker said the best thing people can do is follow guidelines provided and have hope.
“We are trying to do our part to make everyone safe and get past it,” Walker said. “We need to try to do the social distancing, try to flatten the curve, get over it… try to do our part and get along with what the governor is saying. We need to get past it and move on with life.”