As part of Missouri's "Show Me Strong Recovery" Plan, the Lincoln County Health Department extended the Phase I portion until June 15, to adhere to state guidelines for reopening businesses closed during the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, outbreak.

In what has become standard operating procedure, the LCHD's Phase I guidelines are stricter than the state standards to ensure the county's businesses are opening and serving the public safely as the area attempts to regain a degree of normalcy.

In addition to residents and businesses continuing to adhere to social distancing guidelines, businesses must operate at 25% of its capacity or less, according to building code standards. More information can be found on the LCHD's website.

"We wanted to extend (the Phase I plan) to stay consistent with what the state was doing," said Sarah Valenza, LCHD public information officer. "Ours was stricter than the state's guidelines, as usual, but always consistent."

Despite extending the order, Gov. Mike Parson said on May 28 the state's reopening plan is going well.

“We are very pleased with how well Phase 1 has gone so far,” he said. “Businesses, communities and Missourians across the state have done a great job of implementing health and safety measures, and we continue to be encouraged by data acros-s the state.”

The “Show Me Strong Recovery” Plan is intended to protect those most at risk of exposure to COVID-19 while helping Missouri recover economically based on four pillars:

⦁ Expand testing capacity and volume in the state

⦁ Expand reserves of PPE by opening public and private supply chains

⦁ Continue to monitor and, if necessary, expand hospital and health care system capacity

⦁ Improve ability to predict potential outbreaks using Missouri's public health data

Parson said extending Phase 1 will give communities more time to prepare and align efforts as the state continues working toward Phase 2.

“I want to assure you that our efforts are showing positive results, and we are still in a good place with all four of our recovery pillars,” he said. “We are extending Phase 1 not because Missouri has taken steps back, but because we want to continue the progress we’ve made and make sure we are fully prepared for Phase 2.”

During Phase 1, citizens may re-engage in economic and social activities but must adhere to social distancing requirements, including maintaining six feet of space between individuals in most cases.

There are currently no limitations on social gatherings as long as necessary precautions are taken and six feet of distance can be maintained between individuals and/or families.

Valenza said while June 15 is the target date to move to Phase 2 of the COVID-19 recovery plan, anything could change by that point.

"It's really hard to tell, since June 15 is still a little way off, and a lot can happen," she said. "We want to follow the data and reevaluate the (situations) every day."

Valenza also said the LCHD heard a great deal of feedback about whether the county is opening too soon, just in time - or not soon enough.

"Throughout this entire situation, we've heard it from all sides of the community (on opening up the businesses and parks)," she said. "We want to protect all of the residents of our county."