ST. CHARLES, Mo. (KMOV.com) -- The St. Charles County Council passed four emergency ordinances on Friday morning, aimed at protecting its citizens from the growing number of COVID-19 cases.
According to St. Charles Public Health Director Demetrius Cianci-Chapman, 39 people in the county are under ordered quarantine and 212 people are voluntarily quarantining.
Cianci-Chapman told the council 14 people have been tested for the virus and two tests are pending. The one positive case in the county came from a private lab.
During the meeting, Cianci-Chapman outlined the local effects of national and international trends related to the coronavirus. He said if just one percent of St. Charles County were to be infected with COVID-19, 160 deaths and 800 hospitalizations could be expected.
For nearly an hour, the council debated an emergency ordinance that would give local law enforcement the ability to issue a summons to individuals found to be in social or recreational gatherings of more than 10 people. While it would be considered a misdemeanor, county attorneys said it would not remain on an individual's record and would be recorded as an infraction.
"Have faith in our prosecutors and judges," Amanda Jennings, a St. Charles County attorney said. "They're not going to throw anyone in jail for a year because they were in a group of 11 people. It's a great staff and common sense comes along with it. I would encourage you to allow the courts to have this tool to deter any behavior that could be dangerous."
The ordinance passed, with Councilman Mike Elam the sole vote against the measure. It carries a $1,000 fine and up to one year in jail penalty.
"It adds to the concern that people have, because you're already hearing people say they're going to do martial law, we won't be allowed in the street," Elam said. "I'm worried about the message the people of the county are going to hear and that's my big concern.
Jennings pointed out the infraction already exists under current state statute, but fines are larger and the summons must be litigated in circuit court. By adopting a county ordinance, violators can deal with the summons in municipal court.
St. Charles County Executive Steve Ehlmann said the passing of the ordinance alleviates some of the workload of county judges.
"By not passing this, you're not going to stop these things from happening," Ehlmann said. "We're saying, rather than deal with and force our prosecutor, we agree to take these into our county attorneys office and let them deal with them."
The county council also passed an ordinance entering into an agreement with the City of St. Peters to obtain a space in their Emergency Operations Area in order to operate an Informational Call Center.