City of Ste. Genevieve Mayor Paul Hassler was emphatic during a phone conversation with the Ste. Genevieve County Commission and other officials that he does not intend to send law enforcement after citizens seen congregating outside.
Sandra Bell, administrator of the Ste. Genevieve County Health Department; Sheriff Gary Stolzer and chief deputy Jason Schott of the Ste. Genevieve County Sheriff’s Office; and county emergency management director Felix Meyer all attended a portion of the April 6 County Commission meeting to discuss the COVID-19 pandemic and enforcement of stay-at-home orders.
Presiding Commissioner Garry Nelson agreed with Hassler’s sentiment.
Nelson also still wasn’t convinced the county or city has the authority to prosecute violators of the state’s new stay-at-home mandate.
“I read it, and the disgusting thing is, it doesn’t go into the enforcement aspect,” Nelson said. “Plus, we don’t have the manpower.”
“I’m not going to do it anyway,” Hassler said. “My answer to people who call and complain [about seeing people doing things outside] is that if they’re that concerned, stay home.”
Hassler did say he thought people were practicing social distancing outside and not congregating in large groups.
“Driving through the streets, people are doing it,” Hassler said in reference to their adherence to the regulations.
“It’s a terrible, trying time; and it’s making people scared,” Hassler said. “I’m not doing anything to make it worse. People still have to live.”
Nelson was in agreement.
“We don’t want people calling [Ste. Genevieve police chief] Eric [Bennett] or Gary [Stolzer] every time they see 10 to 15 people outside,” Nelson said.
“The best you can do is encourage social distancing if you see people together,” Bell said.
Calls have come into Bell as well as to other officials with complaints about seeing groups of people congregating outside in apparent violation of Governor Mike Parson’s April 6 statewide decree.
“People have to live,” Hassler said. “They have to go to the grocery store.”
He said Rozier’s Country Mart and other stores have made changes to protect employees and customers from the spread of the virus.
“You can only go one way in the aisles now at Country Mart and they have plexi-glass at the checkouts,” Hassler said. “True Value [Cotton’s Ace Hardware] is partitioned off.”
He added that most stores are only letting in a certain number of people at a time to make social distancing feasible.
“One question I get a lot is why are stores able to be open,” Bell said. “It’s because they all contacted us and are all following our guidelines.”
See complete story in the April 15 edition of the Herald.