Vote on Springfield mask ordinance expected Monday; possible requirement could come with fines

Published: Jul. 8, 2020 at 9:33 PM CDT|Updated: Jul. 12, 2020 at 10:47 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - The City of Springfield appears headed toward mandating masks in public. A vote is scheduled for Monday.

The mask provision would require anyone over the age of 11 to wear a mask anywhere in Springfield where social distancing is not possible. That includes indoor or outdoor public and private spaces, and businesses.

“This virus is fueled by sick people interacting with healthy people. The spread will occur,” said Assistant Health Director Katie Towns.

Towns said the Springfield-Greene County Health department expected a rise in cases as the community started to return to the new normal of everyday life after stay-at-home orders. What it didn’t expect, though, was 35 new confirmed cases in a 24-hour period, which happened this week, pushing the number of confirmed cases to more than 400.

“That’s not a sustainable rate of increase for our department and our ability to contain and control a disease,” she said.

That’s why Towns and the health department want face coverings to be required in the city. Cora Scott, with the city of Springfield, said no one wants to have to mandate masks, but it might be necessary.

“Masking is effective. We’re not seeing the masking. We’re seeing our case rate increase. We’re seeing our hospitalizations increase, so therefore, we are where we are,” Scott said.

The ordinance was drafted and included in the City Council agenda Wednesday. The rule would not apply when you’re eating or drinking, playing a sport or in a swimming pool. You could also be exempt depending on health conditions, your age, and where you work.

“If you’re outside, exerting yourself and there may be difficulty breathing while wearing the mask, those would be the general themes of the exceptions,” Scott said. “If you’re under the age of 3, we don’t recommend the masking, but other than that, it’s a pretty widespread, it’s best to be wearing the mask.”

Not wearing a mask could cost someone $100 and businesses who won’t follow the rule could lose their license. Scott said the city would take complaints, and the police could become involved, but she hopes that would not be necessary.

“We hope people will just do the right thing and get us all through this," she said.

Towns said requiring masks could keep the coronavirus under control.

“We are trying to use every available tool to stay ahead of this disease and keep it from completely overwhelming our capability as well as our healthcare system’s capabilities as well,” Towns said. “So yes, the time is now.”

City council will hear public comment and will vote on the mask rule on Monday. If passed, it could go into effect next Wednesday, July 16.

Council members will also be voting on allocating $2 million to the health department to hire 37 more people to help with its COVID-19 response.

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