Franklin County allowing some businesses closed by COVID-19 restrictions to reopen this weekend

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FRANKLIN COUNTY, MO – Franklin County will allow certain businesses to re-open this weekend amid the coronavirus pandemic, one week ahead of when Missouri Governor, Mike Parson, has targeted most of the state to allow businesses to re-open.

Though the move has stirred controversy and even threats, Presiding County Commissioner, Tim Brinker, is making clear it still complies with the governor’s guidelines.

Brinker told Fox 2/News 11 he’d been getting threats over the issue with people even wishing COVID-19 infection on his family.  He wanted to correct misinformation that had been spreading.  

Bowling alleys, movie theaters, skating rinks, gyms, concert halls, and golf courses are among places that can re-open Saturday, he said.

The county’s order suspending most businesses expires Friday at midnight. It will not be extended but those businesses will still have to meet the governor’s guidelines: only crowds of 10 or fewer and a social distance of 6 feet maintained among all people.

“It’s a sign of a light at the end of the tunnel,” said Brinker. “That’s where we want to get. We want people to understand that is what we want to achieve, safely, methodically, and we’re going to walk in.  We aren’t going to run in.  We ran out. We had to run out, but we’ve got to walk back in.”

Personal contact businesses, like barbershops, hair salons, dine-in restaurants, and bars, would still not be allowed to re-open, Brinker said.

Golf courses already were open under the guidelines, with 1 player per cart but no food or beverage service.

That will change this weekend in Franklin County, with curbside “to go” service from the clubhouse allowed much as with restaurants.

Birch Creek Golf Club has had to rent about three dozen additional carts to comply with social distancing, with carts sanitized twice between play. The change this weekend means more people can return there.

“We’ve now been able to bring 3-4 guys back, so we have six crew members on staff now,” said club owner, Randy Wolff.  “Now that the restrictions are easing, we’ll be able to bring some more back, so we’re keeping some paychecks alive.”

All golf tournaments were still canceled, he said.

The Great 8 Cinema in Union could not re-open even with the announced change, said owner, Paul Arand.  It did not make financial sense to show movies for crowds of 10 or fewer in auditoriums made for 90-200 patrons.

“For 10 people, until they up that number until at least 50, it’s not really feasible for us to open our doors,” said Arand. “We hope people get comfortable again.  I hope that we haven’t instilled so much fear in people that they’re going to be afraid to ever do something like that.  That’s not us.  That’s not Americans.  We’re interactive people.  We’re social people.  I hope we get back to the way that we were.”

He doubted theaters would open before July 17th, when Hollywood producers plan to release new movies.

There were no new COVID-19 cases, Wednesday, and no additional deaths, Brinker said.  Franklin County, which has a population of about 110,000, has had 105 cases since the pandemic started with 10 deaths and 34 recoveries.

Outside of nursing homes there were just 11 active COVID-19 cases in the county, Brinker said.

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