Benton County Commission Declares State Of Emergency

Judy Kramer
County Reporter
On March 13, President Donald Trump declared a national coronavirus emergency. Missouri Governor Mike Parson declared a state of emergency on the same day in response to the spread of the coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2). St. Louis Public Radio announced the first case of SARS-CoV-2 in Missouri on March 8, and as of press time nine cases had been confirmed in the state At 10 AM on Tuesday, March 17, the Benton County Commission proclaimed the existence of a disaster emergency throughout the county. Emergency Management Director Mark Richerson paraphrased the proclamation as follows.“The proclamation really does three things, all of which give our leaders tools they may use to work for the best interests of our citizens. 1. There are specific instructions and regulations on how the County money can be spent. The emergency declaration loosens some of those requirements allowing purchasing of essential goods and supplies in a more efficient manner.  2. The current COVID-19 disaster scenario will affect Benton County and our economy like the effects of last year’s flooding.  Benton County had little physical damage to report to meet the required threshold for aid and reimbursement, however our local businesses and industry were dramatically affected financially.  Establishing the Benton County Emergency Declaration may assist with future aid for those businesses and the County.3. By invoking the provisions under the authority of the revised statutes of Missouri, Chapter 44.080, the County is taking the appropriate steps to positions itself, with the proper authority, to make decisions on behalf of the County as the disaster progresses. The next to last sentence of the proclamation states that it renders it essential that the County is of such magnitude and severity as to render essential the County’s supplementation of emergency resources and mutual aid to the County and municipal governments of this County and to require the activation of all applicable state, county and municipal emergency response plans. Although this proclamation gives the County permission to take civil defense, if necessary, we are a long way from that.”Due to the spread of the virus to Missouri, national and state emergencies, and advisories from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Benton County officials have begun collaborating with each other to make decisions on how best to protect residents. One of these meetings was held on Monday, March 16, with the mayors of Warsaw, Lincoln, and Cole Camp, 
school officials, the Benton County Health Department, Emergency Management and County Commissioners. The officials released a statement the same day stating that “As a result of the Governor of Missouri’s State of Emergency Declaration, the school districts of Warsaw, Lincoln,and Cole Camp will suspend session effective immediately…”The statement also advised that the school notification systems would notify parents/guardians ofa schedule to pick up educational packets/supplies prior to the close of business on Wednesday, March 18. Because of the CDC’s guidance, in regard to cancellations of gatherings in excess of 50 persons, all school activities are canceled, unless otherwise notified. Richerson said that the schools, county and municipal officials have been meeting for two weeks,and recently decided that closing the schools until April 1, was the best way to protect our most precious commodity – our kids. He said that it is of great importance to the school administratorsto make every effort to see that children who depend on free meals at school will get them through other means.Warsaw’s Mayor Eddie Simons has asked the public to limit travel, and announced that the Community Building is closed until further notice, but business will continue as usual. The basement door on the west side of the building will remain open for residents who need to conduct business in the basement office.“The upstairs of the Community Building is closed,” said Mayor Simons. “But City services willcontinue and City employees in the building and in the field are still working. There is no dangerto the water system as it is operating efficiently. The closing of the upstairs of the building is to protect residents as well as our employees.”President Trump announced an increase in measures to stop the spread of the coronavirus, and also issued guidelines that called for Americans to avoid social gatherings of more than 10 people and to limit discretionary travel. This March 16 announcement was a change from the earlier CDC guidelines to avoid gatherings of 50 or more people.Over the past few days, numerous other closings have been taking place in the county. Nursing homes are closing their doors to visitors, and J & D Pharmacy has closed its lobby to customers, but still provides services at its drive-thru window. UMB and Hawthorn Banks have closed their lobbies, but provide services through online banking, drive-thru windows, and still conduct person-to-person services by appointment. Hawthorn, still makes loans, and offers ATM services, safety deposit boxes and more. “I have even made a couple of house calls to elderly customers so they would not have to bundle up and go outside,” said Chuck Allcorn, Hawthorn Bank Market President.
Allcorn, also a board member of the Benton County Food Pantry, reported that the Pantry is closed until further notice. He said that the local Pantry gets its food from a Food Bank in Columbia and that facility has closed until further notice. Allcorn also stated that the Warsaw Shrine Club has postponed its April 11 screening for children up to 18 years old to detect orthopaedic problems, harelip or cleft palate.“In the past when we have had illnesses going around, everyone just got sick and some died,” said Allcorn. “We have to be proactive, and try to save more lives this time.”Although the Benton County Enterprise was not able to reach a representative at all churches, it seems that there are going to be quite a few that closing. The Bishop of First United Methodist Church has shut down services at all Methodist churches in Missouri and Arkansas, and Cedar Grove Baptist Church is closed for two or three weeks. A member of St. Ann’s Catholic Church in Warsaw, said that she got a phone call on the morning of March 17, passing on information about the Bishop closing down church. Facebook pages on some churches have reported cancellation of some activities, and may be a good resource to check on specific churches.The Senior Center in Warsaw has closed its doors, but meals are being delivered to home bound seniors. If any congregate is in need of meals, contact the center at 660-438-3300.Golden Valley Memorial Healthcare (GVMH) released a statement on March 16 stating that “The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, as well as the Henry County Health Center, reported that a Henry County resident presumably has the novel coronavirus. This patientwas hospitalized at GVMH prior to being transferred to another facility.”The statement also said that all staff who had contact with the patient are on self-quarantine for 14 days, and that all staff members who were placed on quarantine and were tested for the COVID-19 have tested negative. GVMH is at standard operation, and patients may keep their scheduled appointments if they are not showing signs or symptoms of a respiratory illness. If they have signs or symptoms, GVMH recommends they contact their primary care provider by phone or through the myGVMH patient portal for guidance.As many of Benton County’s residents have noticed, the grocery store shelves are emptying out of many items such as disinfectants. But, in case you can locate some here are a few of the registered disinfectants on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) list. Clorox Multi Surface Cleaner plus Bleach, Clorox Disinfecting Wipes, Clorox Commercial Solutions Clorox 
Disinfecting Spray; Lysol brand Heavy-Duty Cleaner Disinfectant Concentrate, Lysol Disinfectant Max Cover Mist, Lysol brand Clean & Fresh Multi-Surface Cleaner, Purell Professional Surface Disinfectant Wipes and Sani-Prime Germicidal Spray. A full list can be found at 24 hour Missouri hotline for coronavirus is 877-435-8411.