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Smithville student-athletes workout in weight room at Smithville High School during summer workouts in June 2020.

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County to allow mass gatherings up to 250 starting Tuesday

CLAY COUNTY — In light of the state’s full reopening that began Tuesday, June 16, Clay County Public Health Center eased restrictions on businesses and mass gatherings effective at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday, 16. While all statewide restrictions are lifted, local authorities like cities and the county public health center can still put further rules, regulations or ordinances in place in their jurisdictions.

Clay County Public Health Center’s recovery plan allowances now include:

• Relaxing all business and organizations’ occupancy restrictions to 50% of the entity’s authorized building/fire code occupancy.

• Allowing gatherings including religious services, weddings and funerals of 50% of listed occupancy to continue provided physical distancing is maintained.

• Allowing mass gatherings of up to 250 provided physical distancing is maintained.

• Allowing public and neighborhood association pools up to 50% of the bather load within the pool enclosure.

The county’s new order is set to expire at 12:01 p.m. Sunday, July 25.

Health center Executive Director Gary Zaborac said easing of restrictions does not mean the possibility of catching or spreading coronavirus has been eliminated and that people can and should move forward with caution.

“As we move forward with reopening, more individuals will be out in the community, increasing the chance of community exposure,” states Clay County Public Health’s recovery dashboard. “Maintaining physical distance and wearing masks in public is highly recommended.”

During his announcement of the state’s reopening, Gov. Mike Parson said it is incredible to think how far Missouri has come since March.

“There was a lot of uncertainty, worry and concern,” he said. “Here we are today, just over 90 days since our first COVID-19 case in Missouri, and I am proud to say we have overcome all of these challenges and more than met our four pillars to reopen.”

The four pillars used to determine reopening consist of expanding testing volumes, reserves of personal protective equipment, health care system capacity and improved ability to predict potential outbreaks using Missouri’s public health data.


According to a release from the governor’s office, weekly testing in Missouri has increased more than 220% from approximately 16,000 test encounters the week of April 20 to more than 53,000 encounters the week of May 25. Over the past two weeks, the state has averaged more than 10,000 tests per weekday.

As testing increases, so too does the possibility of positives, reported state health officials. As of 2 p.m. Wednesday, June 17, the state has recorded 16,414 confirmed cases of the virus, up about 1% from the previous day’s figures. Total cases have increased roughly in the state by 7% in the last week. As of Wednesday, 882 deaths in the state have been attributed, according to the state dashboard, to COVID-19.

According to Clay County Public Health Center’s dashboard at www.clayhealth.com, as of 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 16, the day of the state’s reopening, 667 of the state’s cases are in Clay County, with 298 reported in non-Kansas City residents and 369 in Kansas City residents. Non-Kansas City resident cases are tracked and recorded by the county public health center. Cases in Kansas City residents are recorded by Kansas City Health Department.

Total deaths attributed to the virus in the county stand at 13, with seven in non-Kansas City residents and six in Kansas City residents. Five of the reported deaths are associated with the outbreak at Pleasant Valley Manor Care Center.

Most of the county’s reported cases for non-Kansas City residents are in the 64068 zip code with 135 confirmed cases, 127 of which are in Liberty. Most of the confirmed cases in non-Kansas City residents are female and range in age from 45 to 64. Of those cases, 178 patients have been released from isolation, while 107 remain in isolation.

In Clay County Public Health’s testing jurisdiction, 3,945 virus tests have been conducted with a positivity rate of 7%. Those tested for antibodies stand at 989 with a positivity rate of 1.4% Mobile testing data for county public shows 1,805 tests have been completed at the county agency’s mobile testing site. Of those, 49 or roughly 3% have been positive.

The dashboard also shows the county agency has a test kit supply score of 10 out of a range of 10. The testing capacity has nearly doubled since last week in the public center’s jurisdiction. Testing capacity for the week of June 7 to 13 was 966.

Contact tracing & community exposure

While Missouri reopened Tuesday, Parson emphasized the importance of continuing social distancing and practicing proper hygiene to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Clay County’s daily dashboard update on Wednesday shows the public health center is increasing its contact tracing investigation ability with a score of three out of 10 this week, compared to zero out of 10 last week.

Zaborac said the agency is hiring staff to handle investigations with funding from the federal CARES Act. Five employment offers were extended last week, he said, with three more this week.

“The goal is to get to between 10 and 15,” he said. In addition, three volunteers from medical personnel with the Kearney Area Fire Protection District that have had contact tracing education are helping the center.

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In My Time … Varied work life leads to travel, genealogy research in retirement

LIBERTY — Lois Shoop, 88, and her sister, Audrey Baker, three years younger, have the distinction of being the first residents at Residences at Liberty Place, 1050 Kent St., in 2008.

For 12 years, the duo both have embraced their adopted hometown of Liberty. Shoop enjoys the Liberty Silver Center, visiting as often as she can for camaraderie and lunches. She will take the assist bus.

Shoop was born west of Blue Mound in Livingston County, about 85 minutes north of Liberty. The oldest child of Seth Minnis and Edna Wheelbarger Minnis, Shoop was joined by Baker and then little brother, Albert, eight years later.

“I remember during the early 1930s, it was dry and hot, Dad would head to Huxley, Iowa to work for a Norwegian farmer and eventually we made that move to Iowa,” she said. “My little brother was born five miles from Ames, Iowa. However, it wasn’t long before we moved to Chillicothe. My dad worked as a tenant farmer and carpenter. He would build farm and machine sheds.”

Her first school was in Jordan, Iowa and the Iowa snowstorms stick with her.

In her apartment, Shoop has a sewing machine in the spare room. While her mother and grandmother made sure she learned to sew, Shoop preferred being a tomboy.

“I was probably 7 or 8 and my dad would tie a tea towel around me and the tractor seat,” said Shoop, smiling, “and I would drive the tractor. I would help with moving hay. I was outside all the time.”

During a brief visit from her sister, Baker said she can confirm her elder sister’s tomboy nature.

“I tired,” Baker said. “Dad told me I wasn’t made for it. I was more the houseplant.”

Even the chance to drive her father’s 1936 Chevy didn’t deter Shoop.

“I learned to drive a stick shift and clutch,” she said. “I was again around 12 years old. I was fortunate being long-legged.”

In high school, she played basketball and volleyball. She got her first job at the dime store, where she served as a clerk behind dishes and pots and pans.

“Sometimes I would be moved upfront by the candy counter,” she said.

After a three-month courtship, Shoop married Warren Shoop and moved to the family dairy farm four miles north of Meadville.

“In almost 25 years, we only took off three weekends,” she said. “While we had a mechanized milking system, strangers struggled to get the cows to milk. I believe the transport would take the mile to Chillicothe Creamery.”

During those years, Shoop continued to drive a tractor and raise a robust farm. She canned the produce and preferred to freeze sweet corn.

From the marriage, the couple had Joyce and Jerry.

“My daughter is a retired RN who gave 40 years to Liberty Hospital and my son worked on small business jets,” she said.

Now, Shoop has grandchildren and great-grandchildren with many to dote on in the area, including Kearney and Smithville.

Shoop’s strong work ethic did and she went to work for the postal service, starting in Chillicothe and then moving to Shawnee Mission in 1974 for 10 years.

“I worked as a distribution clerk and worked at night,” she said. “I would sort the mail for the carriers. I loved it. I spent 18 years on the night shift. In 1983, I headed back to Chillicothe to take care of my mother and retired in 1993.”

During her time as a caregiver to her mother, Shoop began exploring genealogy.

“My mother was wondering about her grandfather,” she said. “I ended up doing that research and fell in love with it. When I would travel throughout the states, I would look in phone books for familiar names. That would spur a visit to the local library or courthouse.”

In that same spare room with her sewing machines are two file cabinets full of family history and an older model computer.

“Travel has been a big part of my life,” she said. “I have traveled with my brother Al. During the years, I have taken nieces, nephews and grandchildren on trips. After being tied down to farms, cattle and other work, I have made up for it by traveling. The ladies up here on the third floor take bus tours together too.”

Shoop said she hopes to impart that common sense her parents had to the younger generation.

“I would say I want to be remembered as a kind person,” she said. “I believe people can be nice and learn to be kind to others. It’s what we were taught. Learn as much as you can. Celebrate and use that right to vote. It’s important to be helpful, but don’t worry about things. I know there are things I can’t change. I have always been that way.”

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4-plex arson under investigation

Liberty Fire Chief John Mills said the state fire marshal's office is offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to an arrest in a possible arson at a four-plex building that left one apartment with extensive damage. “It's a suspicious fire,” Mills said. “The good thing, though, is that there were no reported injuries and the building has working smoke detectors.”

LIBERTY — The state fire marshal’s office is offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to an arrest in a possible arson at a Liberty fourplex that left one apartment with extensive damage.

The fire occurred Sunday morning, June 14, in the 400 block of West Kansas Street.

“It’s a suspicious fire,” Liberty Fire Chief John Mills said.

“The good thing though, is that there were no reported injuries and the building has working smoke detectors.”

The scene is being investigated by the Missouri Division of Fire Safety as well as the Liberty fire and police departments.

Anyone who observed suspicious activity between 3 and 4 a.m. on Sunday or who may be missing a fuel container is asked to call the arson hotline at (800) 39-ARSON (800-392-7766).

Kearney 1st Ward Alderman Gerri Spencer is sworn back into office Monday, June 15, after winning reelection to another two-year seat on the Board of Aldermen in June. “Your vote shows that you trust me to be your voice and I am grateful for that confidence in me. I promise to continue truly listening to you and to do my best to represent you,” she told the Courier-Tribune after the election. “I also would like to thank my opponent for running a clean and classy campaign.”

David Lehman, Kearney’s newest 2nd Ward alderman, is sworn into the Board of Aldermen Monday, June 15, during the board’s firs in-person meeting since the COVID-19 pandemic shelter-in-place order began. Lehman said being elected was a humbling honor and that he hopes he can bring his previous experience as a school board member to aid city leadership.

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The Bounceback: Smithville reopens businesses, playgrounds, campgrounds

SMITHVILLE — Most businesses in the city of Smithville are now back open to some extent, City Administrator Cynthia Wagner said.

“Every business is effected by (coronavirus closures),” Sarah Ulledahl told peers during a Community in Action leadership meeting.

Ulledahl owns Chop’s Barbecue and Catering with her husband in downtown Smithville and serves as a business sector representative for CIA.

“I think everyone has reopened, most places have had to go online if they weren’t online before but I think that is probably a good step that everyone needed to do,” Ulledahl continued. “Everyone has been affected drastically. Even though we stayed with carry-outs and that stayed busy, we lost caterings and weddings and that is a huge chunk. Jean’s Flowers lost funerals ... there’s been a meat shortage. It was devastating, we had to raise prices.”

Ulledahl said she hopes that as things return to normal, meat will become more available and her restaurant will be able to reduce prices to what they were.

“We have had to scramble for about four weeks,” she concluded. “Everyone is struggling.”

As far as city departments, City Hall has reopened its lobby from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and from 1:30 to 4 p.m.

“The phones are still available 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.,” Wagner added. “City Hall lobby is open to the public but we do have limited hours because we are providing time at the beginning and end of each day as well as lunchtime for the staff to clean the lobby area so it is safe for people to come in.”

While the lobby is open, Wagner said, the city encourages citizens to use the internet and phone when possible to limit risk to all parties.

Additionally, many park amenities have also been reopened.

“The playgrounds opened back up,” Wagner said. “We have limited access to our restrooms but only because we had planned on doing renovations to the bathrooms already so we have a rolling closure for restrooms in parks.”

Campgrounds in Smith Fork’s Park have reopened and the same goes for some shower houses on campgrounds, Wagner said. As soon as the renovations are complete, and assuming coronavirus doesn’t increase rapidly, the restrooms will be reopened and available for guests.

Additionally, Chop’s Barbecue, Kelly’s Nook and the city are working together to bring back movie night in Courtyard Park. The first screening is scheduled to occur July 18. More details will be released closer to the event.

As the situation with COVID-19 continues, updates related to the city of Smithville, hours and projects can be found at smithvillemo.org.