Franklin County will stay in Phase 2 of the governor’s four-phase Ad Astra Plan until it is prudent to move to the next phase, county officials said.

The state disaster declaration expired Tuesday, and control of the management of the COVID-19 pandemic was restored to counties.

Derek Brown, county administrator/counselor, said the governor’s phased plan is no longer an order but its use is strongly encouraged by the governor’s office.

The county team faced with managing the COVID-19 pandemic met Tuesday to discuss the best direction for the county, Brown said.

Dr. Bud Ransom, Franklin County health officer, with the approval of the team, issued a public health order effective midnight Wednesday for businesses, events and activities to follow the governor’s plan.

"Nothing has changed for those in Franklin County," Brown said. "We are remaining in Phase 2, where we were when it was an order."

The date to move to the next phases will be determined by the team and the board of county commissioners, Brown said. The Ad Astra Plan’s date to enter Phase 3 is June 8.

"It will be county officials who make the determination of when we move between phases," Brown said. "The metrics that we are going to use is outlined in the Ad Astra Plan. The primary one we will look at is the number of infections. We have not had the deaths and hospitalizations we have seen on the statewide level.

"One of the things we are sensitive about is we don’t want to open up too fast only to turn around and have to shut things back down again. We are in favor of a more measured approach."

Brown said the team felt it made sense to keep following the governor’s plan.

"It is what we are already following," he said. "Several other local governments are doing exactly what we are doing. We need to retain the ability to amend that and add additional restrictions or be less restrictive as the case may be as we proceed forward through this."

Mass gatherings, which do not have a number attached in the phase-out section, will be looked at closely throughout the pandemic, which may be here through the summer and into the fall, Brown said.

The team took in consideration how Memorial Day weekend celebrations might cause a spike in positive cases. The county had 34 positive cases as of Wednesday morning.

"How many other locales had similar events where social distancing was not being practiced where groups larger than 15 got together?" said Brown, referring to publicized footage from the Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri. "There is no way for us to know that. We can carefully monitor and see if all this behavior results in a surge of cases.

"We thought taking the next couple of weeks in staying in phase two and assessing (was the right thing). "(If) we will see that spike, this was a more prudent cause of action rather than moving into Phase 3 or doing away with any restrictions whatsoever."

Ransom said he will be monitoring the positive case numbers for the next week.

"If we don’t have a significant increase, we will get together and probably decide to move ahead," Ransom said.