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St. Louis County, Kansas City plan restricted reopenings

May 8, 2020 GMT
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A woman leaves a shop after purchasing face masks Thursday, May 7, 2020, in Kansas City, Mo. The city remains under stay-at-home orders until May 15 in an effort to stem the spread of the new coronavirus. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
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A woman leaves a shop after purchasing face masks Thursday, May 7, 2020, in Kansas City, Mo. The city remains under stay-at-home orders until May 15 in an effort to stem the spread of the new coronavirus. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

LIBERTY, Mo. (AP) — St. Louis County and Kansas City officials announced Friday that they will proceed with the gradual reopening of businesses but with several restrictions in place as efforts continue to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

St. Louis County Executive Sam Page said large venues, including sports courts and playgrounds, public pools, gyms and fitness centers, and banquet rooms, will not be allowed to open May 18.

Employees at businesses such as bars and restaurants that do open will be required to wear masks and may refuse service to customers who don’t wear masks, Page said. The several other requirements include frequent disinfecting of the premises, testing of employees in danger of contracting COVID-19, and occupancy limits based on the size of the business.

“As we start to discuss easing these (stay-at-home) orders, it does not mean we should let our guard down,” Page said “This is a gradual process of reopening our county. A gradual, thoughtful, deliberate and measured process will allow us to continue to move forward.”

Kansas City will allow restaurants, bars, gyms, museums, the Kansas City Zoo, government buildings and city-maintained playground equipment to open May 15. Lucas and city health officials had hesitated after 11 COVID-19 cases were confirmed at a senior living complex but the mayor said Friday that the reopening would continue. He planned a news conference on Monday to discuss restrictions at restaurants.

The St. Louis and Kansas City areas have reported a majority of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Missouri, which on Friday increased by 148 to 9,489. The state also reported 31 news deaths Friday, raising the total to 449.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms that clear up after two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.

A Kansas City-area church contends in a federal lawsuit filed Thursday that Jackson County’s reopening plan discriminates against religious institutions by limiting the number of people who can gather to worship.

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Jackson County’s stay-at-home order ends Sunday. The first phase of its reopening plan limits gatherings or social events to 10 or fewer people, which includes religious services, funerals and weddings. It also limits locations larger than 10,000 square feet to 10% occupancy.

The Abundant Life Baptist Church, which has sites in Lee’s Summit and Blue Springs, alleges in the lawsuit that the occupancy restrictions force the church to choose between violating its religious beliefs by not gathering, or face legal consequences for holding services, KMBC reported.

Jackson County offices were closed Friday to celebrate President Harry Truman’s birthday and a spokeswoman did not immediately return a message seeking reaction.

One of the largest health care companies in the St. Louis area said Friday it is furloughing thousands of workers starting Monday due to economic damage caused by the pandemic. Mercy said the decline in non-coronavirus medical procedures and doctors’ visits has created a financial hardship. The company operates hospitals and medical offices in four states.

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