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Amid Pandemic, Franklin County Readies To Open For (Some) Business

A sign off Highway 44 points to Union, Missouri, where some businesses will be allowed to reopen Friday. 4/23/2020
Kayla Drake
A sign off Highway 44 points to Union, where some businesses will be allowed to reopen Friday.

While Missouri is still under a stay-at-home order, Franklin County plans to allow certain businesses to reopen starting midnight Friday. 

Golf courses, movie theaters, concert halls, gyms, exercise studios, bowling alleys and skating rinks are included in the reopening. The majority of these businesses have been closed since March 24

“We must allow for businesses to thrive and for people to choose,” Presiding Commissioner Tim Brinker said in a YouTube video announcement posted Tuesday night. 

As of April 22, Franklin County had more than 100 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with almost all of the county’s 10 deaths resulting from an outbreak in a nursing home in Washington.

Businesses that choose to reopen will still need to adhere to the state’s social distancing guidelines, which limit gatherings to 10 people or fewer. 

Sooner or later?

Owners and managers differ on whether they will start up again or wait. 

Nick Jansen, who owns Vero Fitness in Pacific, said he had just signed a lease to expand his gym when the business was ordered to shut down. Since then, he’s stopped charging membership fees to over 900 customers — most from Franklin County — and has seen his income slashed.

Jansen’s business sits about a block east from the county line that divides the town between Franklin and St. Louis counties. While some businesses that had closed temporarily will reopen Friday in Pacific, Vero Fitness will remain closed. 

“When I can walk into the gym, shake the hands of people and have them not be nervous or afraid, then I will open up,” Jansen said.

Jansen said he closed on March 12, before either St. Louis County or Franklin County issued stay-at-home orders, upon the advice of nurses and doctors who work out at his gym.

Vero Fitness in Pacific will not reopen just yet, despite Franklin County giving gyms the green light to open starting April 24. 4/23/2020
Credit Kayla Drake
Vero Fitness in Pacific will not reopen just yet, despite Franklin County giving gyms the green light to open starting April 24.

Randy Wolff, owner of Birch Creek Golf Course, said he trusts Brinker’s decision to reopen certain businesses.

“I think that’s why doing a county-by-county decision kind of makes sense, 'cause each county’s a little different,” Wolff said.

Wolff had to close his golf course clubhouse, but individual golfers have still been allowed on the course since Brinker first altered his order on March 26. This Saturday, Wolff plans to open his concession stand again, spacing patio tables six feet apart. 

Golf by its nature is a social distancing sport, Wolff said, so he will not have a problem following public health guidelines and Missouri Gov. Mike Parson’s order.

“To some degree, if [the government] allows us to use better judgment as to what is reasonable and what isn’t, I think we can manage it,” Wolff said.

All Franklin County government buildings will reopen to the public May 1. Parson’s stay-at-home order is set to expire on May 3, and he has said some businesses could reopen the following day

Brinker said Parson promised to give him parameters for how businesses should reopen by the end of the week, including employee protections and building capacities.

Correction: Vero Fitness is located in the part of Pacific that is in St. Louis County. An earlier version of this story misidentified where the gym is located.

Follow Kayla on Twitter: @_kayladrake

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