Health department fining non-essential businesses refusing to shut down up to $500

Residents who aren't complying with social distancing cannot be cited.

Posted: Apr 1, 2020 6:16 PM
Updated: Apr 1, 2020 8:54 PM

(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) St. Joseph mayor Bill McMurray said the latest stay-at-home order that took effect overnight includes means of enforcement. 

The mayor said this comes after some non-essential businesses continue to stay open, distregarding the order. 

While most non-essential businesses closed their doors, following St. Joseph's stay-at-home order, the mayor said there were some exceptions. 

“By enlarge, just about everybody is complying and so we really thank people. You’re being a good citizen, you’re stopping the spread of this virus and I really do appreciate everybody’s compliance, with a few exceptions,” said Bill McMurray, St. Joseph mayor.

Those few exceptions are some of the reasons behind the city's decision to beef up their enforcement.

Non-essential businesses still operating, may see some fines, up to $500. 

“We’ll send out one of our EPHS’s and they’ll go out and have a conversation with the business and explain to them why they aren’t essential, try and get them to close. That’s our goal, is to get them to voluntarily close, but if it’s hesitant then there are a few extra steps we take. There’s a cease and desist letter that we have to give and then it’s followed up by some citations,” said Thomas Beaver, environmental public health specialist at St. Joseph health department. 

The health department enforcing the stay-at-home ordinance said these enforcement procedures only apply to businesses.

Residents who aren't complying with social distancing cannot be cited. 

“As of right now, I don’t want to say it’s voluntary, but it’s strongly encouraged that you do it. Once you start opening the door for that, it turns into something else and we’re going out ticketing people for not standing six feet apart which we don’t do or at least we aren’t doing yet,” said Beavers. 

The system is complaint driven. Meaning, if residents see a business open that they think should be closed during the order, the health department encourages you to contact the COVID-19 hotline number.

That's not to say the health department isn't going to by businesses on their own. 

“If it’s during the course of our regular inspections, we’re definitely going to comment on it and start the process right then and there,” said Beavers.

Businesses given a cease and desist letter do have a chance to appeal.

These businesses can plead their case to the health director on why they are indeed essential. 

The COVID-19 hotline number to find out if a business is essential or report if a non-essential business is still open, is 816-271-4613. 

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A weak front will move out of northwest Missouri and northeast Kansas Sunday morning giving the region a slight chances for showers before sunrise. A southeast wind will pick up Sunday around 10 to 15 mph, sunshine will return, and temperatures will warm into the upper 70s.
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