CLAY COUNTY — While there still are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the county, Clay County Public Health Director Gary Zaborac, as of midnight Wednesday, March 18, orders no public gatherings of 10 or more people both indoor or outdoors for two weeks in the county to help prevent the possible spread of COVID-19.
Exceptions consist of government functions, health care facilities, daycares, grocery stores, pharmacies, private businesses, weddings, funerals and faith-based activities. He also orders all restaurants, bars, clubs and movie theaters to close unless they are providing curbside, drive-thru or delivery services of food and beverages that adhere to CDC social distancing and control measures.
On Tuesday, March 17, Presiding Commissioner Jerry Nolte declared a state of emergency for Clay County.
“I arrived at this decision after consulting with Clay County’s Emergency Management Director and sheriff’s deputy Capt. Will Akin, Clay County Health Department Director Gary Zaborac and others both in and outside of government. This is a necessary step to access assistance under the federal Stafford Act,” Nolte said.
The federal Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act is designed to bring orderly and systematic means of natural disaster assistance and funds to state and local governments as they carry out responsibilities to aid citizens. As no cases of the virus have been confirmed in the county, Nolte said it was unclear how much in funding could be made available should an outbreak hit the county.
“This proclamation moves Clay County in line with the state government emergency declaration. I urge local government agencies to take decisive action to protect our citizens during this developing pandemic,” the commissioner said Tuesday.
Parson declared a state of emergency for Missouri Friday, March 13. The declaration opens up more than $7 million in aid for the state, which can be used to combat the virus as well as obtain testing and prevention supplies.
In addition to the county declaration, a release from county staff posted to claycountymo.gov states the County Administration Building on the Liberty Square was being closed to the public and nonessential employees Tuesday.
“This decision is being made to ensure the health of our community and staff,” states the county release.
On March 18, county leaders conducted a public session via teleconference to discuss the county’s continued closure plan that impacts the Administration Building and Annex building in Kansas City. As of press time Wednesday, the meeting was still going and no updates were available. “... The public will be notified of continuing updates via the county website,” states a release.
15 COVID-19 cases
now in Missouri
In a press conference Tuesday, Parson said 15 cases of COVID-19 have now been confirmed in the state and announced temporarily closures of casinos. The closure notice comes on the heels of cities, businesses and organizations across the state and Northland issuing their own public closure notices including the cities of Kearney, Liberty and Smithville. For a timeline of virus developments and related closures, visit the Courier-Tribune homepage at mycouriertribune.com.
“We have to practice social distancing. You have to understand how important that is,” the governor said. “Prevention is critical to fight the coronavirus. … It will be a daily fight for months to fight the corona disease and we need to be working together as citizens of the state of Missouri.”
The governor also said while a majority of schools in the state postponed returns from spring break, he does not, at this point, plan to order schools to close for the remainder of the school year as neighboring state Kansas did.
Zaborac said Monday, March 16, it is not a matter of “if” the county will see cases of COVID-19, but “when” and that people should not hoard supplies like cleaning products, toilet paper, masks and food as it has created shortages.
“Being selfish right now is not the right response we need as a community,” he said while also reminding residents that masks are not meant to be used by healthy people but those who are sick.
“Healthy people walking around with masks are really doing a disservice to those who need them.”
If someone feels ill, Zaborac said he or she should contact their doctor but not go to the emergency room as they could possibly infect more people and not to go to the public health center in Liberty as it is not doing coronavirus testing.
While he said the national public health infrastructure was “was woefully unprepared” for the pandemic, the local public health director said the situation is not “all doom and gloom.”
“We are getting better, but we still have a lot of work to do,” he said.
This is a developing story and more details will be published as they become available.