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What you need to know about Springfield’s new masking requirement

Published: Jul. 13, 2020 at 11:38 PM CDT|Updated: Jul. 14, 2020 at 6:12 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) -

After hearing more than 100 public comments on the issue, the Springfield City Council voted to require a mask in public places as COVID-19 cases increase in the city.

The requirement goes into effect Thursday at 12:01 a.m. It lasts for 90 days.

In addition to the face covering provision, the ordinance continues some of the Road to Recovery Plan Phase 3 occupancy requirements and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-recommended physical distancing (6 feet) and sanitation measures. Restaurants no longer have occupancy restrictions, but are required to separate groups at least 6 feet apart unless there are solid barriers at least 6 feet tall between tables. Counter/bar seating and self-service buffets are still not permitted.

Under the ordinance, everyone 12 and up will be required to wear a face covering when in public spaces in the city limits of Springfield. Exemptions are made for those with health or breathing conditions that prohibits wearing a face covering, who are hearing impaired and people communicating with individuals who are hearing impaired.

Other exemptions include:

  • While consuming food and drink
  • While at a swimming pool
  • While obtaining a service involving the face or nose for which the temporary removal of the face covering is necessary to perform the service
  • While playing a sport, exercising or using exercising equipment while exerting themselves
  • While working in settings which might increase the risk of heat-related illnesses
  • While outdoors and maintaining a 6-foot distance from others or while outdoors and are closer than 6 feet to solely members of their own household
  • While speaking, addressing an audience or performing and are able to maintain a 6-foot distance from others
  • While serving as a member of a wedding party during the wedding ceremony and/or taking wedding photos.

“The Springfield-Greene County Health Department takes an evidence-based approach to protect and promote the health of our community. Evidence continues to underline the effectiveness of wearing face coverings to prevent the spread of COVID-19, and as such, is the recommendation of this department,” said Clay Goddard, Director of Springfield-Greene County Health Department.

Employers can order face masks through any supplier. One option is the Missouri PPE market place located on the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services website.

Enforcement

It is recommended that businesses place signs on their entrances to notify customers/visitors of the mask requirement. Springfield-Greene County Health Department has created signs that all businesses can print and place on their doors, or businesses can create their own signage.

Education will be the first step in enforcement. The Springfield Police Department and Health Department will work to educate any violators of the ordinance before citations are issued.

Failure to comply can result in a $100 fine for individuals, businesses, governments or non-profit entities. Each individual within or working for the entity is considered a separate violation. Violations can be reported by emailing city@springfieldmo.gov or by calling 417-864-1010. If a customer at a business refuses to wear a face covering and is causing immediate danger to the business’s staff, call 911.

City of Springfield Public Information Director Cora Scott said a record 60,000 people tuned in to the live streaming of the city council’s meeting where the massive amount of speakers from the general public caused the overall meeting to go on for almost seven hours.

Among the more adamant comments from the public:

“It’s not the government’s job to protect my health.”

“You’re contemplating whether or not to take some of our civil liberties away.”

“To force a mask is to force a muzzle. It is a form of enslavement. Well I’m not a slave and you’re not my masters!”

Council member Matthew Simpson was among those bristling at the last comment.

“I think the comparison that was made of slavery is not only a baseless comparison but it’s deeply offensive,” he said.

In part because of the divisive nature of the mask requirement ordinance, representatives from law enforcement, the medical field and the health department gathered at the Public Safety Center on Tuesday in an effort to unify the community.

“It has driven passions that are very deep,” Goddard said of the issue. “But we have an opportunity to turn a corner here and not let the virus dictate to our community the risk of an additional shutdown. Let’s just work through this together and we can get there.”

“The disease has doubled in the last two weeks in our community and it will likely double again just as quickly,” added Steve Edwards, the President/CEO of CoxHealth. “Last night during the discussion overnight we had 10 new admissions at Cox South.”

”This is a critical step forward as we all continue to protect the health of our community,” said Brent Hubbard, the President/COO of Mercy Hospital. “Now that the ordinance has passed I encourage all of our community to please comply. It’s something very simple. I’d encourage surrounding communities to adopt similar measures. Both Cox and Mercy serve a very wide geographic area and a lot of our patients come from outside the Springfield community.

If you can’t afford or have trouble finding a mask?

”There are ways to make a mask out of T-shirts and you can use bandannas,” Goddard said.

And as for how the enforcement will be carried out?

Officials said educating the offender will come first and the fine is a last resort, comparing it to the way the “Stay at Home” order was handled.

“It is a complaint-based ordinance,” Scott pointed out. “So when we receive complaints they will come into our service-request system. We are hopeful that we won’t get into confrontational situations.”

“We are really well-trained on situations like that and providing information and getting compliance without having to resort to a citation,” said Springfield Police Chief Paul Williams. “Hope that doesn’t happen. And I know that in a situation like this there’s probably someone who wants to make a statement. If that happens we’ll be prepared to deal with that.”

For questions about the ordinance, please call 417-874-1211 option 3 or visit the FAQs page of the City’s website.

Copyright KY3 2020

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