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story.lead_photo.caption Fulton City Hall is located at 18 E. Fourth Ave. Photo by Fulton Sun file photo

During the final weekly check-in meeting, officials painted a picture of a gradual return to normalcy.

"There's not a lot to report, and I think that's a good thing," Kingdom City City Administrator Curt Warfield said. "Business has picked up, like we anticipated. It looks rather busy, and I'm hoping people are adhering to the guidelines."

For weeks now, the Callaway Chamber of Commerce has hosted Zoom meetings each Tuesday with representatives from Callaway County, Fulton, Holts Summit and Kingdom City, plus a rotating smattering of others. With Missouri's stay-at-home order at an end, the weekly meetings are ending too.

"A lot of our business owners are very busy trying to get businesses reopened and planning for customers," Chamber Executive Director Tamara Tateosian explained.

She's currently polling chamber members to decide whether the check-in meetings should continue on a biweekly or monthly basis.

County and city officials are navigating the reopening process with trepidation and caution, they reported. Fulton's City Hall reopened Monday, Mayor Lowe Cannell said, though foot traffic has been sparse. Kingdom City's City Hall still isn't open; nor is Holts Summit's.

"Starting next week, City Hall will open our lobby for limited hours, 11 a.m.-1 p.m.," Holts Summit City Administrator Hanna Lechner said. "The drive through is open 8 a.m.-5 p.m. We decided not to open our lobby this week because we were waiting on some signage, what protocols to follow while doing that."

She added the city's notary public will be taking appointments; people should call at least an hour in advance and should wear a mask while inside the building.

The cities are taking slightly different approaches to city council/board of alderman meetings, too. Fulton returned to in-person, open-to-the-public meetings Tuesday.

"We felt it was right for us to conduct our City Council meeting tonight in person," Cannell said."We have steps in place to maintain social distance as well as allow public to attend on a somewhat limited basis."

He added they're not expecting many participants from the community: "There's not a lot of hot topics on the agenda."

Kingdom City's board also planned to meet in person, while Holts Summit's decided to stick with an electronic meeting.

"A lot of our council members did not feel comfortable meeting in person," Lechner said.

She noted the city is currently discussing whether to allow the annual fireworks festival to go forward, as the event tends to draw thousands of spectators from the surrounding area. Fulton has voted to allow its July 4 fireworks show to proceed, and has been seeking support from local business owners to sponsor the event.

"We've really only solicited from folks we know haven't suffered as much as others during this time," Cannell said.

Officials noted Callaway County only has two currently active COVID-19 cases of the 22 reported in the county so far; the last new cases were reported May 1. But they warned against being complacent about social distancing.

"People seem to be in carefree mode again, so that's concerning, a little bit," Cannell said. "If you don't feel safe, don't go do it. That's kinda my message."

Lechner said violations of state-required social distancing measures, such as the patron limits imposed on businesses by Phase 1 of Missouri's "Show Me Strong" reopening plan, should be reported to the Callaway County Health Department.

"We definitely do want to report things like that," Cannell said. "I know there's a lot going on that shouldn't be going on, we want to curb some of that stuff."

Kent Wood, of the health department, said it has received some calls from concerned citizens about social distancing issues.

"Reports of social distancing issues will be investigated on a case-by-case basis and will be dealt with according to (Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services) and (U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) guidelines," he said. "To date, calls have been minimal. The health department will work each case and determine what actions are needed to mitigate the individual situations."

However, Cannell claimed, elsewhere in the state, people who've reported violations have been unmasked by others submitting Sunshine Law requests to the local county health department.

"If you do report people, you might be outed for that," he said. "I'm not discouraging it; I just want you to be aware."

He said he wasn't sure if there was a system to report violations anonymously, but "there's probably avenues" to do so.

"Unless complaints are in writing, there will only be internal documentation relating to complaints and the business named kept on file," Wood said.

For now, city officials are looking toward the summer.

"Does it increase or go away?" Warfield asked. "What vaccines are made available? We've got a long road ahead of us still. It's been unprecedented all along, and I don't know why it would change now. It's all been a mystery so far."

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