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story.lead_photo.caption Photo by Joe Gamm / News Tribune.
For more news about the COVID-19 coronavirus, access the News Tribune Health section.

Effective 5 p.m. Saturday, the Cole County Health Department is issuing a stay-at-home order in response to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, department Director Kristi Campbell announced Friday night.

Jefferson City supports the order, Mayor Carrie Tergin said at a press conference to announce the move.

The order is to last until 5 p.m. April 11.

The county has verified 14 cases of COVID-19 and is awaiting results from more than 200 tests that have been sent off to labs, according to Chezney Schulte, the county's communicable disease coordinator. Two of the COVID-19 patients have recovered, she said.

Tests indicate there is community spread within the county. Community spread occurs when people are infected with the virus without having traveled to a location where the virus is known to be or having come in contact with someone who has traveled to such a place. The Centers for Disease Control says community spread means the spread of an illness for which the source of infection is unknown.

"If you have traveled within the last week, you need to stay home for the next two weeks and avoid contact with others," Campbell said. "Employers need to encourage and support their staff in this effort of remaining at home."

Essential activities that will continue include working in essential businesses, obtaining supplies or necessary services, seeking medical care, caring for a family member or loved one, and exercising and maintaining personal health.

"Individuals are strongly encouraged to practice physical distancing to the extent feasible while engaging in these activities," Campbell said.

Essential services are businesses that people need to provide safety for themselves and their families. They may be grocery stores, fuel stations, hardware stores, construction, vehicle repairs and supply stores, she said

Restaurants may continue to provide pickup, drive-thru or delivery services.

"We encourage all businesses to be creative to minimize close contact among staff," Campbell said, "by having employees work from home, staggering shifts and having work stations a minimum of 6 feet apart."

Increased cleaning and disinfecting schedules are highly recommended.

More information on the order is available at colehealth.org or email questions to [email protected]

Presiding Cole County Commissioner Sam Bushman said the county is enacting the stay-at-home order for the safety of the county's residents.

"We have never experienced anything like this before in our lifetime — and we want to contain it now," Bushman said. "Please follow our order for the next couple of weeks."

He encouraged residents to spend time with their families, read books, go for walks and relax.

"The world is not ending. The sky is not falling," he said.

Bushman reiterated county offices will remain open, but he encouraged people to call before traveling to the offices.

The order is just a next step to let residents know the pandemic is a serious matter, Jefferson City Police Lt. David Williams said.

"There's not a situation where we'll be going out trying to identify people who are not following the order exactly," he said. "We know that people are understanding."

Three law enforcement organizations that were represented at the press conference — Jefferson City police, Lincoln University police and the Cole County Sheriff's Office — supported the order because they want everyone to be safe, Williams said.

Something that has come up over the past few days, Williams said, is there is no "letter" necessary for travel.

"There is nothing that we are going to issue as a law enforcement community telling you that you are able to travel to these spots," Williams said.

Schulte said the two new COVID-19 positive cases that came in Friday were passed through community spread.

The stay-at-home order follows the lead of other Missouri cities — Kansas City, St. Louis, Columbia and St. Joseph.

On March 16, Jefferson City and Cole County activated their Joint Emergency Center. County health officials prohibited gatherings of 50 or more people.

The next day, Campbell announced the first COVID-19 case in Cole County.

On March 19, Tergin proclaimed a citywide emergency, essentially canceling all public meetings and suspending all commission and committee meetings until April 16. It also rescinded all permits for race/walk/bike events, parades, festivals and temporary outdoor consumption.

On March 20, the county said it would prohibit gatherings of more than 10 people. That went into effect March 23. The prohibition applies to restaurants, bars and movie theaters. The mayor also announced the city's Madison Street parking garage is free to use until further notice.

People who are exposed to COVID-19 patients before the patients are symptomatic are not quarantined. Those who are exposed to the patients after the beginning of symptoms are. To avoid confusion, Campbell signs written orders for people who are required to quarantine.

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