By Allen Edmonds
HARRISONVILLE – The Cass County Commission on Dec. 10 voted unanimously to halt all quarantines and isolations related to the COVID-19 pandemic, despite a quickly rising caseload across the county and in defiance of an impassioned plea from the chief executive of the Cass Regional Medical Center.
The decision was also opposed by Cass County Health Director Sarah Czech.
Presiding Commissioner Bob Huston said prior to the meeting that the decision “has been made for us by the Attorney General of the State of Missouri – so we’re just passing a resolution to align with it.”
Attorney General Eric Schmitt on Dec. 7 sent a letter to all public health agencies calling “all mask mandates, quarantine orders, and other public health orders that are based on any of the invalidated regulations or issued outside the protections of the Missouri Administrative Procedures Act . . . null and void. You should stop enforcing and publicizing any such orders immediately.”
Schmitt cited a recent Cole County Circuit Court decision as the basis of his claim.
Huston said the tone of the letter was clear.
“I think Eric Schmitt made it clear that if we don’t follow it (his instructions), his next letter won’t be so nice. So we’re going to follow it.”
South District Commissioner Monte Kisner said he supported the decision.
“People are over it,” Kisner said. “It’s been two years of sickness and people are ready to move on.”
Huston said he still believes “people are going to do the right thing – they’re going to isolate if they get sick. And we’re still going to be doing contact tracing and notifications.”
He also said the commission would support the Health Department’s present level of public reporting of COVID case numbers within the county.
North District Commissioner Ryan Johnson moved to approve the resolution, which was seconded by Huston. The commission then opened the floor to public comment prior to the vote. The majority of attendees strongly supported the measure, citing personal freedom.
But Lang led the charge against the resolution.
“You’re basically telling your health care system you don’t care,” he said, a statement that Johnson immediately attempted to counter with an interruption, but Lang cut him off.
“Yes, you are,” he said vehemently.
“We are close to getting overrun. You all are responsible for public safety, and this is the No. 1 public safety concern right now. We believe that it is appropriate when someone is positive, that they isolate themselves,” Lang said. “We all know there are pressures, and we all know there are people that don’t do it. They have to go to work. They have to do other things,” he said, “and that doesn’t always happen.”
He said the case numbers at the county’s only publicly funded hospital and approaching the high point of the pandemic now.
“So if you want me to tell people that are coming to me with a heart attack that I can’t take care of them because I have COVID through the roof and I don’t know what’s coming through my front door, then support this ordinance. Otherwise, please reconsider. Because this just paralyzes the Health Department. Gives it no power, and no ability to protect our citizens on a day-to-day basis.”