In addition to Clay County Public Health and Clay County Sheriff’s Office, we at the Courier-Tribune are fielding several questions about what one can and can’t do during the unprecedented COVID-19 stay-at-home order and what penalties people face if they possibly violate the order.

While many employers in industries considered essential under the order gave employees paperwork to prove their jobs are essential and require them to leave home, deputies say they are not pulling people over to check.

“There is not a curfew in Clay County related to #StayHomeKC, and we are not pulling people over and asking for permits/passes going to and from work,” states a Clay County Sheriff’s Office tweet from Thursday, March 26. “We are pulling people over who need some additional driver’s ed.”

In addition, while playground equipment in parks is not recommended for use in most cities including Kearney, Liberty and Smithville due to sanitation unknowns, health experts say there are still plenty of mental and physical health positives to be had in the outdoors amid social distancing. Some state parks however, like Watkins Mill in Lawson, have been closed due to overcrowding to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“We recognize that social distancing may take a toll on our mental health, especially during high-stress and anxiety-producing global public health emergencies. We also know that parks provide a connection to the outdoors and green space as well as opportunities for physical activity, which studies demonstrate reduces stress and improves mental health,” states a release from the National Recreation and Park Association.

To help inform the public, the following is a list of cans, cannots, encouragements from public health agencies and answers to frequently asked questions, including how businesses are deemed essential.

What CAN I do?

• Go to the grocery store or pharmacy

• Visit a health care provider if you are sick or have an emergency medical need

• Enjoy the outdoors while practicing social distancing

• Perform your job that is essential to the health and safety of the community

• Perform your job or communicate through phone calls, video calls online or through other channels that are not in-person

• Take care of elderly relatives, young children, those with medical needs or pets

What can I NOT do?

• Dine in a restaurant or drink at a bar

• Go to a nail/hair salon, clothing store, gym, fitness studio or get a massage

• Go to a movie, concert, sporting event or worship service

• Attend a wedding or funeral

• Visit friends and family who do not live with you, especially those who are at high risk of getting seriously ill from COVID-19

What should

I ALWAYS do?

• Keep physical distance between yourself and others, about 6 feet

• Wash your hands often, for at least 20 seconds

• Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces

• Stay home and away from others when you’re sick, cough or sneeze into your elbow or always cover sneezes and coughs with a tissue that is promptly thrown away

In places where there are no restrictions on the use of local parks, trails and open spaces, the NRPA recommends the following for those seeking outdoor time:

• Refrain from using parks or trails if exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms.

• Follow CDC’s guidance on personal hygiene prior to and during use of parks or trails.

• Prepare for limited access to public restrooms or water fountains.

• While on trails, warn other users of your presence and as they pass, and step aside to let others pass.

• Follow CDC guidance on the recommended size of social gatherings including outdoor picnicking, pickup sports and other group hangouts, and maintain proper physical distance at all times.

• Observe CDC’s minimum recommended social distancing of 6 feet from other individuals at all times. If this is not possible, users should find an alternate location or depart that space.

Frequently Asked Questions

(answers provided by Clay County Public Health Center)

What does this order require of residents?

The order requires residents to stay at home unless they are engaged in one of the essential activities specified in the order.

Essential activities include working in an essential business, 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 social distancing to the extent feasible while engaging in these activities, and to stay home if not engaging in one of these specific activities.

How will this emergency order be enforced?

The county has many mechanisms to enforce this order, including working with the sheriff’s office and Clay County municipalities.

This order will be enforced similarly to other business-related ordinances such as building occupancy and health requirements for food preparation.

Violators will be subject to fines and business closure orders, among other penalties.

Will residents be subject to penalties such as arrest or citations for leaving their homes?

Residents can leave their residences to engage in essential activities including exercising and maintaining personal health, working at an essential business, obtaining supplies or necessary services or seeking medical care.

Everyone is urged to stay at home if they are not engaged in any of these essential activities as this will greatly aid efforts to stop the community spread of COVID-19.

Does my business qualify as an essential business as defined in the emergency order?

Major categories of essential businesses defined in the order include:

• Health care — doctors, dentists, nurses, hospitals, pharmacies, medical research facilities, blood donation services, labs;

• Food and drink production and distribution — grocery stores, markets, restaurants that offer food for carryout, liquor stores;

• Sanitation — laundromats, dry cleaners, household and business cleaning services and supply stores;

• Transportation — railroads, airports, public transit, taxis and other private transportation providers and gas stations;

• Financial Services — banks, insurance providers and professional services required to comply with legal and regulatory requirements;

• Manufacturing and distribution of supplies and materials for essential businesses — trucking and other supply chain support functions;

• Maintenance and construction of infrastructure and households;

• Child care;

• Essential government operations;

• Residential facilities — including hotels and motels;

• Media and communications providers; and

• Mailing, shipping, and delivery services.

How are determinations made about which types of businesses are essential?

Determinations about which types of businesses are essential are made based on both the necessity of businesses for supporting life and safety as well as the public health risk certain activities pose, particularly those which require close in-person interaction.

Guidance is based on advice of health officials as circumstances change.

I own a business in an essential industry. Do I have to stay open?

Clay County cannot compel any business to remain open.

I want to have a wedding, dinner party or other group event at my house. Is that allowed?

Gatherings of this sort are dangerous and social gatherings of more than 10 people are currently prohibited statewide per order issued by the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services.

In-person social gatherings are one of the primary transmission points for the coronavirus. Hosting in-person events of this type will facilitate the spread of the disease throughout the community.

There have been many examples in other cities and countries where the disease spread rapidly through weddings, funerals and other social events.

Furthermore, social events are not one of the essential activities permitted under the emergency order, so attendees could be held in violation of the order.

I work at an essential business but don’t believe I am an essential employee. Do I have to work?

The county cannot compel any individual to go to work, nor can it make determinations for essential businesses about which employees are essential and nonessential for carrying out its work.

Essential businesses can continue standard operations provided social distancing is maintained to the extent feasible. Essential businesses are strongly encouraged to allow employees whose duties can be carried out from home to do so.

What about child custody agreements?

People are still able to keep normal arrangements. However, if the child is sick or has been exposed to sickness, the child should stay in one place to keep the virus from spreading to other places, if possible.

What about my pets?

People are able to buy pet food and supplies. Veterinary clinics are allowed to remain open for emergency medical care.

No animal grooming services are allowed to remain open.

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