Swings closed

After witnessing large groups of people in Bowling Green’s Adams Street Park, the BG City Council decided to close the playground equipment to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Police caution tape and signs have been posted. Photo by Leo Pratte

BOWLING GREEN—With the number of reported COVID-19 cases in Pike County now at one as of Sunday, the Bowling Green City Council decided to enact some measures to try and keep the number of infected low.

On Friday, the Board of Aldermen and Mayor Don Hunter decided to close the playground equipment in the city’s parks. Caution tape and signs were going up to tell people to stay off the equipment.

On Thursday, as soon as the weather started to get nicer, City Administrator Linda Luebrecht said she noticed that the Adam’s Street park was packed with people of all ages. She discussed the matter with Hunter and they decided that to protect the health of Bowling Green residents, it would be prudent to close the playground equipment.

“We don’t have the ability to continually clean the equipment,” she said. And with so many people in one place, the possibility that transmission of the coronavirus would be a lot higher. “It’s important for people to observe the social distancing” the CDC has recommended in order to reduce the spread of COVID-19. “This is a hard decision to make, but with the schools being closed and the weather getting nicer, more kids and others are using the parks and we cannot keep them sanitized. This is for everyone’s safety and health.”

The walking trails, however, will remain open, she added, although the social distancing measures should be followed there, as well.

As part of these measures, she noted, City Hall would be closed to the public, but the city’s staff would still be on duty to help Bowling Green residents when needed.

“We’re not working from home,” she said, but she and her staff were doing their best to maintain personal distance in the office. The city has also decided not to enforce water disconnects during this time.

“But we want everyone to know that they are still required to pay their bills,” she said. At some point cutoffs would be enforced again, and if people let their bill continue to increase, it would “hurt them down the road. We want people to keep up with their bills.”

And even though the office is closed, they do have alternative methods for paying. People can go online or online at www.bowlinggreen-mo.gov to pay, or make their payment through a drop box. They can even call in and do their payment over the phone by calling 573-324-5451, Luebrecht said.

Hannibal’s mayor announced a “Shelter in Place” order, closing all non-essential businesses.

“We are doing everything possible to avoid that here,” she said. “We’re very rural here,” she noted, but the surrounding counties are starting to have COVID-19 cases show up. “We want to keep it out of Pike County, but we don’t know where everybody has been lately. So, it’s up the individuals to do the right thing and stay away from other people.”

Bowling Green Police Chief Don Nacke said his officers have already had to ask groups congregating at the park to move along. Some juveniles, possibly junior high students, had pulled down the caution tape that was put up as a deterrent, he added.

“We had a discussion with them,” he said.

His officers are doing their best to maintain social distance when dealing with the public.

Right now, the Bowling Green dispatchers are screening all calls to BGPD, asking the same series of questions the 911 operators are asking when people are calling for emergencies to determine if there is anyone sick in the residence before an officer arrives.

“We’re trying to handle as many calls by phone as we can,” Nacke said. “I don’t want them to go out unless they absolutely have to.”

His department has is a few face masks for officer protection and the rubber gloves all officers carry when making arrests or dealing with a crime scene.

In addition to the police department making adjustments to the way it handles calls, the Bowling Green Fire Department said it would limit its involvement with medical calls.

In the past, they would often go out on calls to assist EMTs. 

“The fire department would only be responding to emergency medical calls—as first responders—at the request of EMS, effective immediately,” Luebrecht said. “This change comes as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Bowling Green Fire Department is not equipped to respond to these types of incidents. This change is to protect the members of the BGFD, the families of our members, as well as to reduce exposure to the public. We arrived at the decision to make this change with the input from Pike County Memorial Hospital EMS.”

Bowling Green Fire Chief Adam Mitalovich said, “Right now, as a department, we do not have the personal protective equipment to prevent viral infections.” And  he does not want to have his people unnecessarily exposed.

“We’re available, if EMS crews needs us,” he added, but fire department personnel would wait outside until the ambulance arrived to allow the EMS personnel enter first.

In a worst-case scenario, he added, firefighters could use their air packs to protect themselves. But they are not like the throwaway masks and gloves EMTs use.

“It takes quite a bit to disinfect them,” he explained. Each unit costs $7,000 are good for 15 years.

 “Other than that, it is business as usual for the fire department,” he said, when it comes to fighting fires and doing rescues.

“So far, everyone is health,” Mitalovich said. “And I want to keep it that way so we can fight fires and do rescues.”

Luebrecht added that, “If everyone would take it upon themselves and their families, to shelter in place on their own, our community would be much better off. 

The City of Bowling Green appreciates your understanding and prays that everyone stays healthy during this scary time.”

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