At three-week mark of Springfield’s mask mandate, where do we stand?

Published: Aug. 6, 2020 at 4:45 PM CDT
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Thursday, August 6 marked exactly three weeks since Springfield’s mandated mask ordinance went into effect and this week Springfield-Greene Co. Health Director Clay Goddard gave the city council an update.

”I believe that we are beginning to see the impact of the city’s masking ordinance,” he told the council in pointing out some encouraging numbers. For instance community spread, where the source of a person’s exposure cannot be determined, has subsided in relation to the total cases.

“There is a 45 percent decrease in cases attributed to community spread exposure,” Goddard pointed out.

The health department provided us with figures on Thursday showing that eight days after the masking ordinance went into effect on July 16, Springfield began to see a decline in the five-day rolling average of confirmed cases (average number of cases for the previous five days). The five-day rolling average was 44.2 on July 24, and the most recent five-day rolling average (8/1 to 8/5) is 38.2 cases. According to the health department, this data indicates the five-day rolling average is stabilizing, pointing toward a downward trend.

CoxHealth President/CEO Steve Edwards said it’s no surprise that mandating masks by law gets more people to comply than simply suggesting that they wear one.

“I will tell you once the government says it’s the right thing to do immediately you see a jump in mask usage,” Edwards said. “It doesn’t have to be 100 percent. If we can get 70 percent of our population using masks we can slow this disease down.”

Requiring people to wear masks is a very controversial and divisive issue though and until the recent jump in cases in southwest Missouri and northwest Arkansas, many smaller communities hadn’t felt the pandemic’s effect and some still haven’t.

“Rural Missouri, we’re a little isolated,” said David Compton, the Barry County Office of Emergency Management Director. “Those were bigger city problems. I can tell you that myself and the health department have talked about this over and over again...that as people get more active in the summertime and interact more, the risk of passing this from one person to another was absolutely going to go up. And it has.”

That increased social interaction and movement from place to place during warmer weather is why the Springfield-Greene Co. Health Department says other towns need to mandate mask-wearing as well.

”We’ve been pretty clear that here in Springfield we’re not an island and that we really need surrounding communities to participate in order for this to truly be effective,” said Kaitie Towns, the Springfield-Greene Co. Health Dept. Assistant Director.

Arkansas is now under a state-wide mask mandate but it too has had problems with several law enforcement agencies saying they wouldn’t enforce the order.

That news bothers Edwards, whose healthcare system treats COVID patients from that region.

“A leader who chooses not to try and enforce these kind of public safety health measures is in my mind a leader worried about the vote today and not the vote of history,” Edwards said. “History is going to judge us and we’ve been very slow as a nation, as a state, as a surrounding area.”

“COVID exists everywhere you’re at,” Compton pointed out. “There is a likelihood that you’ll come in contact with COVID-19 and you need to take the right precautions.”

Copyright 2020 KY3. All rights reserved.

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