Blocked stairs

The upper floors of City Hall are off limits to the public and signed restricting access can be found on elevators, and on blockades at stairways. Masks are also required in common areas for those who work on the upper floors. This is being done in an effort to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

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Mayor Bill McMurray will extend the city’s social distancing rules until at least June 15, following an extension made by the governor.

At a Thursday meeting, St. Joseph City Council members were in favor of the extension proposed by McMurray, and the health department staff agreed.

“I think because we do have a lot of cases still in our community, it makes sense to continue the order as is,” St. Joseph Health Department Director Debra Bradley said. “While Mosaic is managing fine with the number of individuals in the hospital ... we also don’t want to get to a point where we’re overwhelming them.”

During Thursday’s work session, McMurray announced that Mosaic currently is treating 19 patients with COVID-19, six of whom are in the ICU. Two of the patients in the ICU are on ventilators.

The council still will allow softball and baseball practices starting June 1, as discussed in a previous meeting, and games could begin after June 15. Both practices and games will see distancing rules required.

Bradley told the council that local businesses are, for the most part, cooperating with distancing rules. She said her department investigates violations based on complaints made by the public and, so far, two places have been inspected.

She said a local bar was allegedly breaking the rules but was found to be in compliance when health department staff stopped at the business to check. Another business, this one described as a “service industry” was, in fact, in violation when inspectors investigated a complaint, but on a second check-in later, it was found to have solved the issues.

A second community testing event is being planned for sometime during the second week of June. The first event saw around 1,400 of 2,000 testing kits issued by the state used. The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services allowed Mosaic to keep 100 tests and the rest were sent back.

Bradley said McMurray called Dr. Randall Williams, Director of Missouri’s Department of Health and Senior Services, and requested 400 tests in order to do another event.

“He asked for 400 test kits and Dr. Williams said ‘I’ll send them to you if you have a community event.’ So, that’s what we’ve been trying to do,” she said.

She said Northwest Health Services is interested in performing the tests, but a location and exact date have not yet been chosen.

To see the current social distancing rules and requirements, visit the city’s website at stjoemo.info.

Brendan Welch can be reached at brendan.welch@newspressnow.com. Follow him on Twitter: @SJNPWelch.