The Festus City Council voted 6-0 at a special meeting this morning (Nov. 16) to approve emergency measures to deal with an outbreak of COVID-19 cases among city employees and the rising number of coronavirus cases across the county.
The immediate effect of the vote, which was held during a virtual meeting, is the cancellation of the WinterFest that had been scheduled for Dec. 5, as well as the Santa House (where Santa visits with youngsters) in Schneider Park that normally opens during WinterFest and continues on various dates throughout the Christmas season.
The vote gave Mayor Sam Richards and City Administrator Greg Camp the power to take steps at their discretion to protect the public’s health and safety.
“With the rise of COVID in the county and for the safety of our employees and the public, we decided to do this,” Richards said.
Camp said the ordinance is the same as one approved by the council in April, when COVID cases spiked at that time.
“We’ve had personnel with symptoms test positive and who are quarantined,” he said. “There have been four in the last five days. The numbers in the county are continuing to rise.”
The city has about 90 municipal employees.
In addition, access to the Festus Municipal Library building will be closed beginning Tuesday (Nov. 17). The lobbies at City Hall, the Police Department and the Public Works Department also will be closed to the public. Employees in those offices will be available to answer questions from the public by phone or email.
Elizabeth Steffen, the library director, said the library will continue offering curbside services.
“Even when we reopened in June, we continued to offer curbside for those who did not wish to come into the building,” she said.
Steffen said the library curbside services will be available from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays and 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Fridays, with no services available Saturdays. Call 636-937-2017 to set up material pickups.
One area not yet affected by the restrictions are parks, which were closed to vehicles in April.
“The parks are open,” Camp said.
He said the emergency measures are in effect for 90 days, although the council could vote to alter the length of time as necessary.
Ward 1 Councilman Gary Underwood and Ward 2 Councilman Kyle Wilkey did not participate in the virtual meeting.
Council members also discussed concerns about the Twin City Area Chamber of Commerce Christmas Parade scheduled for the evening of Nov. 30 on Bailey Road in Crystal City and Main Street in Festus, but that activity is sponsored by the Twin City Area Chamber of Commerce, and as of this evening, it had not been canceled.
Tonda Breeze, the chamber’s executive director, said the organization is expected to meet Wednesday morning (Nov. 18) to discuss whether to continue planning for the event.