I am writing you today to give you an update on the current position the Joplin City Council has on our COVID-19 response.
The city of Joplin is blessed to have nine independent decision-makers dedicating hours of their lives to making wise decisions for the residents of Joplin. All nine put in the hours, do their homework, speak their minds and vote with conviction. I find it to be a challenge to consolidate nine different positions into one statement as the mayor.
There is one common theme that emerged as I had many discussions with City Council members: COVID-19 is a regional health crisis. It needs to be addressed with a regional response. Over the past few weeks, I have visited with the executive leadership of Freeman Health System, Mercy Hospital Joplin and the Kansas City University, Joplin. I have had many candid conversations with Joplin's health director and former health director. All have expressed concern over our growing number of cases, our increased level of hospitalizations and the holiday season that is upon us.
On Wednesday, Nov. 11, I sent an email to the leadership of Mercy and Freemen requesting that they call a summit of all the elected officials in Southwest Missouri to discuss the current COVID-19 situation and how we as a region would like to respond. All options will be on the table. There are many ways to address this issue. We could put together an information campaign, address occupancy limits, consider a face mask ordinance or, in a worst-case scenario, move to a shelter-in-place solution.
I do not think the region will embrace extreme solutions, but who knows how this will evolve and what we might want to progress toward if COVID-19 gets much worse and the hospitals lose the ability to care for all who need care. As of now, I have not heard back from either hospital on a willingness to call a COVID-19 summit.
The city of Joplin could try to host the gathering, but I believe that it is best if it is organized by our health partners, hospitals and health departments. Joplin tried to organize an event like this on July 27, and it was canceled because of a lack of interest.
A regional summit is warranted and needed soon, in my opinion. The city of Joplin has shown its willingness and ability to discuss and implement constraints to address COVID-19. We remain capable. We reserve the right to work independently if needed to mitigate this virus. I have great confidence in our local hospitals. I have great confidence in the leadership of the counties and cities of Southwest Missouri. I have great confidence in the leadership, both elect and employed, of the city of Joplin. Lastly, I have great confidence in the grit and common sense of the people of Southwest Missouri.
We all need to continually ask ourselves, "What can I do today to be more COVID-19 responsible?"
Regionally, we are all in this together.
Ryan Stanley is mayor of Joplin.