After Maryville announced a second COVID-19 emergency order March 29 requiring citizens to shelter in place except for when traveling for essential activities, which will go into effect 12:01 a.m. April 1, City Manager Greg McDanel spent much of his day March 30 answering questions.
McDanel, who helped draft the order which requires Maryville residents to remain six feet apart from one another in public places and prohibits the operation of nonessential businesses, is trying to navigate the city through a situation for which there is no playbook.
Amid the continued spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus that first appeared in Wuhan, China, in December 2019, McDanel said city leaders across Missouri have been left to enact orders and answer questions with limited guidance from the state. After McDanel announced the order on Facebook March 29, the post garnered 117 comments in 24 hours, many of which were praising the city for its decision or inquiring about what classified businesses as “essential” and what outdoor activities might be considered violations of the new order.
“There are a lot, a lot of questions on social media,” McDanel said over the phone. “And we understand that these are confusing and fearful times for our citizens, and so, again, we’re all trying to get through this together.”
McDanel said the order’s list of 26 “essential” services was derived from similar orders in-place in Springfield, St. Joseph and Kansas City, Missouri, though Maryville is still making some determinations on a case-by-case basis. He spent much of the day March 29 fielding questions from within his office at City Hall from business owners wondering if they qualify while answering to private citizens in Facebook comments concerned about the order’s impact on their daily lives.
After the order takes effect March 30, McDanel said, the city will begin contacting nonessential businesses that choose to remain open to request compliance as means of enforcement. On a residential scale, McDanel said the Maryville Department of Public Safety would police violations of the order with a “educate and disperse” approach.
Violations of the order could be met with a $500 fine and three months of jail time, but the city hopes to avoid enforcing those punishments at both commercial and residential levels, McDanel said.
“Our intent is to get compliance,” McDanel said. “I’d say if there are egregious acts as far citizens are concerned — large house parties, things of that nature — we will absolutely try to, again, educate and enforce.”
The second emergency order, which came less than a week after Maryville’s first order requiring social distancing, was triggered by a positive COVID-19 test within the Mosiac Life Care Medical system in St. Joseph March 28, McDanel said. Maryville and county officials agreed to hold off on a shelter-in-place order until a confirmed case of the disease caused by the coronavirus appeared in either Nodaway County or the Mosaic system.
Rita Miller, the community relations manager at Mosaic Life Care-Maryville, said the hospital’s Maryville campus has sent 10 COVID-19 tests to the state for testing as of March 31, but none have come back positive. Nine tests came back with negative results while one test is still pending, Miller said. Six negative tests of county residents have been administered through the state, said Tabitha Frank, the Nodaway County Health Center nursing supervisor, but Mosaic tests aren’t always included in that figure, Frank said.
In the wake of the hospital system’s confirmed case in St. Joseph, Miller said Mosaic has continued to increase its precautions taken in Maryville.
Mosaic has implemented a screening process at the entrances to the Maryville facility, one that applies to patients, visitors and care providers. The process includes several screening questions and requires those seeking entry to have their temperature taken, Miller said. The hospital is also encouraging visitors under the age of 18 to stay home.
The hospital, so far, has not experienced a shortage of protective equipment or COVID-19 tests, Miller said, but is keeping a “critical eye” on its supplies. Mosaic is only testing patients who meet the Missouri Department of Health and Human Services’ criteria for testing.
Additionally, Mosaic is asking patients with coronavirus symptoms to call ahead before traveling to the hospital, sending patients with respiratory-related illnesses to Maryville’s east clinic in an effort to prevent the spread of a potential virus outbreak.
“We’ve got all types of scenarios going on and getting all our plans in place so if it —,” Miller said over the phone, before correcting herself. “When it does happen — supposedly not ‘if’ — we’re ready for whatever.”
While there remain zero confirmed cases of the disease in Nodaway County, McDanel said the city held off on the order until its April 1 start date for the sake of small businesses in Maryville. He said many business owners in town, some who operate nonessential workplaces, want to remain open despite the growing threat to public health.
The city is encouraging those businesses to remain open online if possible and to seek Coronavirus Emergency Loans from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, loans McDanel said he expects to be forgiven when the pandemic subsides and daily life returns to normalcy.
“There is an economic impact, and I believe that’s why we’ve waited as long as we can before issuing this shelter-in-place order,” McDanel said. “We know the impact it does have on small businesses and those employees that rely on those paychecks.”
Gary Greeley isn’t yet sure what he’s going to do. He’s owned and operated Gary’s Barber Shop in Maryville for 47 years and 11 months, spending the last 25 years at its Fourth Street location. The order directly requires the closure of barbershops, tattoo parlors and massage services, leaving Greeley out of business for at least two weeks. The longtime business owner said he’s worried what the future might hold, a fear that’s heightened by the uncertain timeline of COVID-19’s impact and when its hold on daily life might cease.
“No work, no pay,” Greeley said. “My bills keep coming.”
Through his near-half-century of business in Maryville, Greeley has worked through a building collapse and an eviction, but never anything like this, he said. But he’s trying to stay positive. He hasn’t yet looked into the business loans touted by McDanel, but he’s going to. He doesn’t intend to mourn the devastation COVID-19 could have on small businesses in Maryville, including his own, until the damage is fully done.
Like so many caught in the path of the virus, forced to shelter in place and wait out the pandemic consuming the country, Greeley said he’s taking it one day at a time.
“This is kind of my first go-around,” Greeley said. “You really don’t know what it’s like until you’ve already walked through it. Then you really understand the big picture.”