Businesses told to shutter

Jason Ferguson
Beginning Thursday, April 9, some businesses in the city of Custer will be required to temporarily shutter, while others will be forced to change the way they do their business after the Custer City Council unanimously passed an ordinance to declare a public health emergency and limit public gatherings in an effort to battle COVID-19.
“I know it’s painful,” said alderwoman Peg Ryan of the ordinance. “People need to think of the larger community.”
A second reading will take place tomorrow evening and, if that reading is approved, the ordinance will take effect April 9, the earliest it can begin per state law, as the new ordinance must be published before it can take effect.
The ordinance will require all restaurants, food service locations, food courts, coffee houses, bars, breweries, distilleries, clubs, cafes and other similar places of public accommodation offering food and beverage for on-site consumption be closed to on-site customers, but may still offer take-out, delivery, curbside service and drive-though.
In addition, all churches, recreational facilities, public pools, health clubs, athletic facilities, theaters and music and entertainment venues are to close. All other retail and service businesses in which more than 10 people are gathered or permitted to gather in the facility are directed to close. 
Excluded from this are grocery stores, retail and service businesses in which fewer than 10 people are gathered or permitted to gather in the facility, pharmacies, drug stores, food pantries and health care facilities. 
In other words, retail businesses except those explicitly named above can stay open provided they don’t allow more than 10 people to congregate at once inside their store. Family Dollar and Dollar General fall into the “grocery store” category under the ordinance and will be allowed to remain open.
The ordinance has no stated end date, but will be in effect until such time it is suspended or repealed.
Nobody was present to  comment in person at the meeting, which was held with half of the council at city hall and the other half via phone to adhere to the Centers for Disease Control’s social distancing recommendations.
However, the city did receive phone and email comments prior to the meeting and some questioned why the city would limit church services.
Alderwoman Jeannie Fischer said many churches have already limited or cancelled their services, and if churches are allowed to hold large gatherings,  those people would still come in contact with people outside of the church, which could potentially spread the virus.
“If we stick together, we can squash this,” Fischer said. “We have to do something now. That’s the way it is.”
The ordinance will be on every future council meeting for discussion as to whether or not it is still necessary and will be lifted as soon as possible. Any violation of the ordinance is subject to the general penalty provisions applicable to other city ordinances. Each violation of the ordinance is considered a separate offense.
Snowbirds returning to Custer was also briefly discussed, with the council saying it would recommend people self-quarantine for 14 days when they return from another state.
Mayor Corbin Herman said for every negative comment the city received about the potential ordinance, 10 comments in favor of it were received and most people seemed to support the move.
The ordinance does not cover “shelter in place” orders, which the city believes would have to come from the state. If that order comes down, Herman said the city would follow the directive. 
However, he said local doctors are pushing toward a shelter-in-place directive, although they are speaking on behalf of themselves and not speaking for Monument Health.
A document at the meeting signed by Dr. Joy Falkenburg and Dr. Lisa Brown encouraged leaders not to wait for the state to make a shelter-in-place directive.
“Although not legally binding, the county can make a statement giving direction and the city can make a statement with directing an ordinance regarding businesses and public spaces in the community,” the letter reads.

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