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City Council Limits Public Gatherings To 50; Schools, Restaurants Exempt For Now

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The events honoring the 50th anniversary will include a march to the Park Central Square in downtown Springfield. (Photo credit:

Springfield City Council voted unanimously Monday to pass an emergency ordinance prohibiting public gatherings of 50 or more people, with some exceptions, while the community responds to the outbreak of COVID-19.

The penalty for violating the new ordinance is up to a $1,000 fine or up to 180 days in jail for those convicted in municipal court, according to City Attorney Rhonda Lewsader.

Educational institutions,  daycare facilities and businesses in the corporate limits of the city of Springfield—including restaurants and bars—are exempt from the prohibition for now.

The emergency ordinance will remain in effect for 30 days. Monday's meeting was held on less than 24-hours’ notice because a third case of COVID-19 was discovered in Greene County.

While most cases of COVID-19 are mild, the disease can cause respiratory distress and fatality, particularly among people older than 60 and those with underlying health conditions.

Council debated whether to close restaurants, bars and movie theatres, or to place restrictions on the number of people in a given business at one time, but decided to hold off on those more drastic measures for now. Multiple members of council said they did not feel Monday's ordinance went far enough.

“If I see cryptic infection, which that means we cannot determine what the source is, or if we find community spread within Springfield, I think you have to look at more aggressive containment measures,” Clay Goddard, director of the Springfield-Greene County Health Department told council members. 

The ban on gatherings of 50 people or more followed the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC.

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