City Leaders Stress Need To Take COVID-19 Seriously

By Eric X. Viccaro

EVICCARO@STEGENHERALD.COM

The primary focus of last Thursday’s regularly scheduled Ste. Genevieve board of aldermen meeting was the ongoing COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic.

That’s even with a full list of agenda items not related to the virus.

City administrator Happy Welch during a telephone interview with the Herald on Friday is “encouraging wearing masks.”

Welch said the aldermen are urging local businesses to do the same.

“The number of active cases is going up,” Ste. Genevieve mayor Paul Hassler acknowledged during the discussions. Hassler explained it’s recommended to wear a mask, but it hasn’t been mandated.

Earlier this year, the Ste. Genevieve County Health Department had a reopening plan complete with phases.

Currently, there is no mask mandate in either the city or the county, and that’s despite 16 current active cases — as the health department reported on Friday.

Overall, Ste. Genevieve County has totaled 119 confirmed cases, with seven new ones on Friday, Aug. 28. The health department also reported 3,012 negative tests.

“Five of the seven new confirmed cases have already been in quarantine for several days due to having been in direct contact with a positive case,” the health department reported on its Facebook page.

Several exposure sites and times were announced.

• Mimi’s Restaurant, Aug. 23, 10 a.m. to noon

• Weeks Restaurant, Aug. 28, 1-2 p.m.

• Hotel Audubon Bar and Grill, Aug. 28, 5-9:30 p.m.

The health department also released an informational guide concerning public exposure notices found on its Facebook page. See the graphic accompanying this story.

Mayor Paul Hassler noted the health department has been undermanned since the resignation of Sandy Bell.

Nurse Julie Flieg is currently serving as the acting health department director, and the organization has been inundated with coronavirus questions.

Everyone in the city hall board room wore masks during the meeting, from elected officials to Ste. Genevieve employees.

Alderman Mike Raney participated in the meeting via the Zoom teleconferencing service.

The session was available to the public on Zoom with a meeting identification number and passcode — giving people a chance to participate in the gathering from the comfort of their home. Meetings also are televised on Spectrum Cable Channel 991, affectionately called SGTV.

Welch gave a summary of recent COVID-19 related talks during his administrator’s report.

“The mayor and I met with the county and health department representatives during their regular commission meeting to discuss any action that needs to be taken,” Welch said.

“The groups decided that more public education is in order, with the issues of masks and social distancing,” Welch continued. “Discussion included the talk of enforcement; but, none of the groups felt that step was necessary based on the amount of active cases staying in the teens.”