PLATTE COUNTY, Mo. — Two Northland governing bodies are at odds in terms of whether or not to fine violators of Platte County’s stay-at-home order.
The Platte County Commission voted Monday to waive fines for anyone who violates the stay-at-home order.
But some say it’s not up to the commission.
Missouri statute defines a county’s health department as the authority on public health orders during a pandemic, and Platte County Prosecutor Eric Zahnd said that will stand, regardless of Platte County Ordinance 2020-CO-007.
“The county commission can do or not do what it wants to do,” Zahnd said. “What it cannot do though is change the fact that it’s a misdemeanor to violate such an order. Missouri law gives local health departments the full ability to enforce its orders regarding pandemics.”
Tara Gase is a wife and mother who lives in Platte County. She called the move a waste of time.
“I’m a little confused about why it’s necessary in the first place if it really doesn’t give them any additional power,” she said.
Gase continued, saying the commission should be “making, you know, political choices that benefit people and that are best for our health. I’m so sick of politicians trying to think they know better than medical experts, and this is just one more example.”
Presiding Commissioner Ron Schieber defended the vote. He said it’s about getting “a seat at the table to make sure that all parties in the county are represented.”
“Besides the impact of the virus on the overall health of those who actually have the virus and the devastating symptoms, there is equal devastating impact on those people who have lost their jobs, can’t support their families, and are spiritually emotionally and physically exhausted,” Schieber said.
He continued by saying the commission has a good relationship with the health department, and that by “working together with the health department we will get better public policy.
“But disagreeing with them and having a seat at the table will also result in better public policy. This is the way our Republic was founded and is one of the first principles of governance.”
Zahnd said he hasn’t had to try any health order violation cases and hopes he doesn’t have to.
“It’s happening all over, not only the state of Missouri, county by county, but all over the United States, that our public health officials are doing what they can to keep us safe,” he said.
The Platte County Health Department shared the following statement with FOX4:
“We have made every effort to work with the County Commission. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, I’ve answered numerous phone calls, texts, and emails from them day and night. I’ve placed several people on our Platte County COVID-19 Advisory Council per their request, and we have invited them to attend our Health Department Board meeting recently.
“We are all in this fight against the virus together and the Health Department is focused on opening up Platte County gradually and safely according to the guidelines established by the National Plan and the Missouri governor’s plan.”