The Vermillion City Council gave first reading to a new emergency ordinance related to COVID-19 that will replace the first emergency ordinance that went into effect immediately following its second reading on March 30.
That first ordinance will expire on May 30.
That upcoming expiration prompted the city council to consider the new emergency ordinance Monday. The new ordinance is very similar to a resolution approved by the council on May 4 that eased some of the restrictions of the original, March 30 law and it will, in fact, lighten things up a bit more when it comes to imposing COVID-19 restrictions on certain Vermillion businesses.
The new ordinance will go into effect following its second reading, scheduled at the next regular meeting of the city council on June 1.
“There are a couple of additional changes that I would just note briefly,” City Manager John Prescott said. “In the proposed ordinance … it talks about 50 percent occupancy versus the current 33 percent. In visiting with our city attorney, you would want to keep that number the same at least for the second reading of the ordinance, if that happens, but after that, you could adjust it with a resolution either up or down. For consistency’s standpoint, you should either keep it the same or make it less restrictive.”
Changes between the ordinance given its first reading Monday night and the rules currently in place are:
• providing for a 50 percent occupancy versus the current 33 percent. The percentage could still be adjusted to be more lenient at the second reading but could not be more stringent than the number used during the first reading of the ordinance.
• the wearing of masks by the general public when social distancing can’t be maintained is recommended with the proposed ordinance.
• a clarification that in restaurants, bars and video lottery casinos, a six-foot distance between customers is to be maintained. This was a common question that was asked of city staff.
• some of the businesses listed in the March 30 ordinance that do not exist in Vermillion have been omitted from the new proposal considered Monday night. For example, airport concessionaires was included in the original ordinance, which was modeled after laws approved by larger cities.
On May 4, the city council amended the March 30 ordinance with a resolution that allowed some businesses to reopen if they followed a long laundry list of conditions. The new ordinance approved on its first reading Monday also contains a long list of requirements:
1. Any Business identified in the earlier ordinance as revised can continue to remain open to serve patrons on-site pursuant to the conditions established in this ordinance. These businesses include:
Restaurants, food courts, coffee houses, bars, breweries, distilleries, wineries, clubs, cafes, and other similar places of public accommodation offering food and beverages for on-site consumption, including any alcohol licensees with on-sale privileges.
All recreational facilities, public pools, health clubs, hair and nail salons, barber shops, spas, tattoo parlors, massage facilities unless providing prescribed, required, or recommended services as directed by a licensed medical provider, athletic facilities, and theaters, including movie theaters, and music or entertainment venues.
All hookah lounges, cigar bars, vaping lounges or other similar businesses.
All arcades, bingo halls, bowling alleys, video lottery casino operations, indoor climbing facilities, skating rinks, trampoline parks, and other similar recreational or entertainment facilities.
Any businesses within the City of Vermillion identified in #1 above, which are open to the public, shall observe the following guidelines to slow the spread of COVID-19:
a. Establish a minimum six-foot distance between any tables, chairs, and barstools. This provision does not need to be observed between members of the same household.
b. Restaurants, bars, and video lottery casino operations shall be limited to a maximum of 10 customers or a capacity of 50 percent of their maximum posted capacity, whichever is greater but shall still maintain the minimum six-foot distance between customers.
c. All businesses will identify their occupancy allowance and post it in a conspicuous location for customers entering the building.
d. All restaurants and bars shall dispose of, or disinfect, all menus before and after use by each customer. Condiment containers shall be cleaned/disinfected between each group and shall not be shared among multiple groups. Salad bars and self-service buffets shall not be permitted.
e. Recreation and fitness businesses shall limit customers based on available square footage. A maximum of 10 customers or a capacity of 50 percent of their posted capacity, whichever is greater shall still maintain the minimum six foot distances between customers.
f. Encourage social distance spacing while waiting for service or entry into a business. Businesses may accomplish this by requiring people to remain in their vehicles.
g. Install a Plexiglas or similar divider where physically possible between the cashier and the customer.
h. Require employees to wash hands at regular intervals.
i. Food service employees must wear a mask when serving dine-in patrons which covers the employee’s nose and mouth.
j. In video lottery casinos operations, machines must be cleaned and disinfected between each customer.
k. Employees of hair salons, nail salons, spa, and barber shops must wear masks which cover their nose and mouth during customer contact times. Customers must be seated at least six feet apart.
l. In gyms and fitness facilities, any equipment and/or exercise mats must be cleaned or disinfected between each use. Customers should be separated by at least six feet when using machines or equipment.
m. Customer seating in theaters and similar businesses shall be reduced for social distancing with certain seats marked as “not available due to social distancing guidelines” to ensure compliance.
n. Businesses shall publicly post a regular cleaning and disinfecting schedule.
o. Businesses are encouraged to conduct daily employee screenings for illness.
p. Businesses are encouraged to post signage outside of their facility that encourages customers to not enter if they are not feeling well or have COVID-19 symptoms.
q. Businesses are encouraged to develop risk mitigation strategies for restrooms or other areas where social distancing requirements are likely to be compromised.
r. Certain businesses (e.g., gym, recreation facility, video lottery casino, etc.) are encouraged to have customers wipe down their equipment/machines before and after use. However, it will still be the responsibility of the business to ensure proper cleaning and disinfecting is occurring.
s. Businesses, particularly salons, barber shops, and spas, are encouraged to provide service on an appointment-only basis to ensure proper social distancing and hygiene practices are met.
3. In addition to the specific requirements listed above, businesses shall operate in a manner consistent with CDC guidelines and any applicable state regulations and executive orders issued by the governor.
4. The restrictions in this order do not apply to the following businesses, activities or operations:
a. Places of public accommodation that offer food and beverages for off-site consumption, including grocery stores, markets, retail stores that offer food, convenience stores, liquor stores, pharmacies, drug stores, and food pantries, other than any portion of such business which offer on-site consumption.
b. Health care facilities, residential care facilities, congregate care facilities, correctional facilities, and facilities providing medical, therapy, or rehabilitation services as prescribed, required or recommended by a licensed medical provider.
c. Crisis shelters, homeless shelters, soup kitchens, or other similar institutions.
d. Any emergency facilities necessary for the response to the current public health emergency or any other community emergency or disaster.
e. Official meetings of the city, schools, county, or state.
f. The operations and meetings of any state, federal, or local governments or their courts.
g. Educational institutions and their related services under the governance of the Board of Regents or the local school board to the extent permitted by the governing authorities.
h. Parks, trails, hike/bike path, and The Bluffs Golf Course.
5. The City encourages all members of the public within the City of Vermillion to continue to follow CDC guidelines, social distancing practices, recommended hygiene, and to utilize face masks outside the home when social distancing spacing can’t be maintained.
6. This ordinance shall remain in effect for a period of 60 days, at which time it shall be automatically repealed unless specifically readopted for an additional period of time by the city council. At each regular city council meeting during the 60 day period or at a special meeting called for consideration of this ordinance, the City Council will have as an agenda item consideration of a resolution to suspend the provisions herein prior to the end of the 60 day period. Any restriction contained in this ordinance may be modified at any time by a resolution of the city council. Modification may expand its scope to encompass additional businesses, activities or operations or greater restrictions.
Any violation of this ordinance is subject to a fine set by resolution in compliance with the general penalty provision in Section 10.99 of the City of Vermillion Municipal Code. Each day a violation of this ordinance is allowed to occur is considered a separate offense.
Prescott told aldermen as they were considering the new ordinance that they could hold the first reading of it that night and the second reading of it on their next regular meeting June 1.
“If you wanted continuity without a gap between ordinances, you could look at a special meeting perhaps in the last week of May,” he said.
Alderman Rich Holland noted that the change listed in 2b: Restaurants, bars, and video lottery casino operations shall be limited to a maximum of 10 customers or a capacity of 50 percent of their maximum posted capacity … “rubs me very raw because people who have been talking to me say it’s already blatantly ignored, so what’s the point of it saying, ‘okay, we’ll make it even more relaxed.’ Apparently this is a toothless law, or part of it. I don’t know what to do.
“I would not be in favor of making it higher capacity since they are not following the law anyway,” he said.
“I think the difficulty is that enforcement is hard and if people are aware of this being blatantly ignored, I would really ask that they contact law enforcement or the folks that are setting the capacities so that we have the ability to follow up on it,” Mayor Kelsey Collier-Wise said.
Holland later had a change of heart shortly before the council voted to approve the first reading of the ordinance with change from 33 percent to 50 percent of capacity for bars and restaurants.
“There’s no point in penalizing the people who are responsible and adhering to it,” he said. “They can benefit from the 50 percent, so I would leave it alone at this point.”