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Kansas City, St. Louis County town move up reopening dates

Missouri’s largest city will reopen with significant restrictions next week, as jurisdictions in the state’s two urban areas begin to move away from stay-at-home orders that sought to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas announced that starting May 6, some “nonessential” businesses, along with religious gatherings, may resume, with limits on crowd sizes and, in some cases, requirements that contact information of those in attendance be recorded.

“We’re saying it’s important for us to reopen, but we’re going to be smart about how we do it,” Lucas, a Democrat, said.

The new order does not include restaurants, bars, gyms and other businesses that draw large crowds, according to city spokeswoman Morgan Said. Those businesses must still wait until May 15.

Republican Missouri Gov. Mike Parson’s stay-at-home order ends Sunday, but Democratic leaders in Kansas City, Jackson County, St. Louis and St. Louis County previously announced plans to extend their orders through at least mid-May.

Late Tuesday, Mayor Sean Flower of the St. Louis County town of Eureka announced on Facebook that his community of 10,000 was breaking from the county mandate and reopening Monday.

“We can no longer follow the rules we are under without economic ruin,” Flower said.

Several suburban and exurban counties — St. Charles, Jefferson and Franklin near St. Louis and Platte and Clay in the Kansas City area — also have said they will reopen Monday.

Lucas said his decision was spurred in part by a sharp decline in new infections over the past three weeks. His plan allows businesses to resume in-person and delivery operations with customer limits of 10 percent of building occupancy or 10 people (whichever is larger); firms must record names and contact information for customers who are on site for more than 10 minutes.

Religious gatherings, including weddings and funerals, are limited to 10 people for inside events and 50 people outside. People are still supposed to stay at least 6 feet apart and attendees’ contact information must be recorded.

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But Democratic St. Louis County Executive Sam Page said it’s too early to ease restrictions. About half of Missouri’s 318 deaths from COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, have occurred in St. Louis County, along with 3,008 of the state’s 7,425 confirmed cases. The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested and people can be infected without feeling sick.

Page warned that Eureka businesses could risk legal complications if, for example, a worker or customer contracts the virus. He said the county will “certainly look at all of our legal options.”

“I want the economy to be strong again, too,” Page said. “I understand our businesses are suffering, our families are suffering, and we have to find a path forward.”

St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson has not announced an end date for her stay-at-home order but is “constantly evaluating the situation based on available data and science,” spokesman Jacob Long said.

For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.

Parson said Tuesday that coronavirus hospitalizations across most of Missouri are down significantly since peaking at 1,142 on April 7, a key factor in his decision to reopen the state.

State data shows hospitalizations declined 41 percent in the Kansas City area, and between 38 percent and nearly 70 percent elsewhere, except St. Louis, where they’ve risen 8 percent over the past three weeks.

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