Branson (Mo.) Board of Aldermen approves masking mandate

Published: Jul. 28, 2020 at 4:25 PM CDT|Updated: Jul. 28, 2020 at 5:20 PM CDT
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BRANSON, Mo. (KY3) - After a second day of debate, the Branson Board of Aldermen approved a masking mandate Thursday afternoon.

The order starts July 31. It ends September 8.

The ordinance has the following components:

  • Requires individuals to wear face coverings while in indoor and outdoor public spaces unless they are engaged in certain activities or under the age of thirteen.
  • Requires operators of public places to ensure guests use face coverings.
  • Requires signage at all businesses outlining requirements on social distancing and face coverings.
  • The penalty for violating this ordinance is a $100 fine and potential revocation of business license and other permits.

Under this ordinance, anyone 13 and up will be required to wear a face covering when in public spaces in the city limits of Branson. Exemptions are made for those with a health condition documented by a medical professional, who are hearing impaired and someone who is communicating with a person who is hearing impaired.

Other exemptions include:

  • While swimming
  • While obtaining a service involving the head, face or nose
  • While playing a sport, exercising or using exercise equipment
  • While outdoors while maintaining a physical distance of at least six feet
  • While outdoors who is closer than six feet to family members of people they reside with
  • While performing on a fixed stage
  • While engaging in public speaking while socially distancing
  • Any public safety officer engaged in an emergency situation
  • Any person during a wedding ceremony or while photographs of the wedding and reception are taken
  • Any family member of a deceased person during a funeral, interment or memorial

Education will be the first step in enforcement. Branson Police will work to educate any violators of the ordinance before pursuing further action. Just like any other City ordinance, violations of the face covering ordinance can be reported by calling 911. The penalty is a $100 fine for a person who refuses to wear a mask, or a business owner who doesn’t enforce the rule.

Tensions and emotions were high with a few more hours of public comment on the issue again Tuesday, leading up to the four-to-one vote. Before they voted, aldermen defended their decisions. As one of them described why he approved the rule, many people in the room got up and walked out.

“It’s our position in this city that we were appointed and we need to care for the citizens of our city and this is to do that, so I’m voting for this,” said Jamie Whiteis, as residents stormed out of council chambers.

Many people were not happy to hear why the majority of Branson’s Board of Aldermen voted to approve a face covering ordinance for the city.

“It’s not so much about the masks as it is about social engineering and government overreach,” said Joshua Heston, who has organized a group called Branson Liberty Initiative.

William Mahoney, President of Cox Medical Center Branson, said the number of coronavirus cases in Taney County has doubled since the last Board of Aldermen meeting nearly two weeks ago.

“A lot of these people haven’t had their loved ones affected yet so they don’t understand the ramifications,” Mahoney said. “Many aren’t healthcare professionals so that’s understandable.”

Larry Milton was the only alderman to vote against the ordinance.

“The phone calls I received, the majority are against the bill. The meetings I’ve attended with others, the majority were against the bill. Today’s crowd, the majority are against the bill,” Milton said.

Alderman Bob Simmons says he’s worried a potential spike in cases could cause another economic shutdown if the virus is not contained.

“I’m pretty afraid in the long run for this community if we don’t do our duty here, even though it’s not popular,” Simmons said.

These residents, like Heston, who walked out of council chambers as the Board’s decision became final, are frustrated.

“Folks are really to the breaking point here. They’re ready to not comply,” Heston said.

To Mahoney, this is step in slowing the spread of the virus.

“This is a mask. It won’t hurt you wearing it, okay? If you don’t wear it, there could be negative effects on people. So take the risk on wearing it and being a little inconvenienced,” he said.

The Board of Aldermen can decide to extend the ordinance after September 8.

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