County to restrict public food services

Ray Scherer

The Gasconade County Health Department on Wednesday, March 18, said it is recommending a restriction of food establishments to curbside service only, such as delivery, carryout, and drive-through, due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Officials said the spread of infectious diseases poses a significant risk to the health, safety, and well-being of the county's residents.

"We realize measures to limit the spread of this virus may place a strain on the resources of citizens, businesses, and municipalities of Gasconade County," stated a news release from the department. "We have been speaking daily with neighboring counties, state agencies, and the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services in making this difficult decision. We feel that it is in the best interest of our communities to limit the spread of COVID-19."

Under state law, the Health Department has the authority to issue such an order to help enhance the public health and prevent the entrance of disease into the county.

"To limit the spread of COVID-19, the protect the public health, and to provide essential protections to the citizens of Gasconade County, it is reasonable and necessary to impose limited and temporary restrictions on the use of public places of public accommodation," the department added.

The precautions to support the order will include social distancing techniques that require people to be at least six feet apart; reducing the number of employees, customers, or other people present; reducing face-to-face contact; and using phone calls, virtual meetings, and drop-offs/curbside pickups rather than in-person contact.

Starting at 12:01 a.m. Friday, March 20, the following places of public accommodation are highly recommended to be closed to entering, exiting, use, and occupancy by the public: restaurants, food establishments, food courts, cafes, coffeehouses, and other places of public accommodation offering food or beverage for on-premises consumption; and bars, taverns, brew pubs, breweries, microbreweries, distilleries, wineries, tasting rooms, special licensees, clubs, and other places of public accommodation offering alcoholic beverages for on-premises consumption.

Department officials said every place of public accommodation is encouraged to offer food and beverage service to the public using delivery service, window service, walk-up service, drive-through service, or drive-up service, as long as every such person involved implements appropriate precautions to decrease the potential transmission of the virus, including social distancing.

In offering food or beverage service, every place of public accommodation described may have up to 10 members of the public at one time in the place of public accommodation for the purpose of picking up their food or beverage orders, as long as any member of the public is at least six feet apart from others while on the premises.

"Gasconade County will not enforce any exception to this recommendation, as applied to the specific circumstances, prohibit an existing restaurant or bar from providing delivery service, window service, walk-up service, drive-through service, or drive-up service during the state of emergency," the news release continued.

The recommendation does not apply to any of the following: places of public accommodation that offer food and beverage service that is not for on-premises consumption (that is, the sale of food or beverages at grocery stores, markets, retail stores of wineries, convenience stores, pharmacies, drug stores, and food pantries), except that any portion of the premises that is available for on-premises consumption of food or beverages will comply; health-care facilities, residential care facilities, congregate care facilities; and crisis shelters or similar institutions.

"Nothing shall prohibit an employee, contractor, vendor, or supplier of a place of public accommodation from entering, exiting, using, or occupying a place of public administration in their professional capacity," the department said. A place of public accommodation includes such facilities as private clubs, country clubs, golf clubs, sports clubs, athletic clubs, and dining clubs.

The department said it will review the restrictions on Wednesday, April 1.