Springfield-Greene County Health Department recommends easing masking guidelines when outdoors

Published: May. 3, 2021 at 10:35 AM CDT|Updated: May. 3, 2021 at 6:15 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - The Centers for Disease Control and prevention recently eased its guidelines on wearing masks outdoors. The CDC is allowing fully vaccinated Americans to go without a mask unless they are in a big crowd.

Acting Health Director of the Springfield-Greene County Health Department Katie Towns says she feels comfortable recommending the amendment to city council Monday night.

“The good news here in Greene County is that less than four percent of our cases have been from a transmission that occurred outside,” she said.

If approved, it will remove the requirement for those to mask when outdoors except in large crowds. Towns said the health department still recommends a mask when people are in close proximity to one another for an extended period of time or if a gathering has 500 or more people. And the relaxing of the ordinance would apply to people whether they’ve been vaccinated or not.

“Our goal is to achieve a vaccination status that allows us to remove the masking requirement and provide that protection that only the vaccine can provide,” Towns said. “We continue to encourage and ask people to participate in the vaccine process so that we can move out and be safer when we do move away from masking.”

The health department recommends everyone who is not vaccinated to continue to mask to protect themselves and the community. Towns said as of April 30, 39 percent of people who live Greene County has received at least one dose of the vaccine and 32 percent are fully vaccinated. In order for Springfield to get to its final phase of reopening (the “Green” phase), 50 percent of residents must be vaccinated.

“It is an ambitious goal that we’ve laid out to get to 50 percent by the end of May,” Towns said.

The push to get more people immunized has gotten to the point where the supply of vaccine has succeeded the demand from the public. On Monday Mercy Hospital started offering walk-in vaccinations available at its clinic on National from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday-Friday and about 300 people came through on the first day.

Those that showed up had a variety of motivations for wanting to get their shots.

“We’re doing a lot of traveling this summer so we wanted to make sure we were good to go,” said Darby Fraser of her family’s attempt at getting back to some version of normal.

Others felt it was the patriotic thing to do.

“We wanted to do all the responsible things we needed to do to make sure and put an end to the pandemic,” said Erich Cox.

Some expressed frustration with those who want no part of getting vaccinated.

“You’re being silly, immature and you’re thinking of yourself and not other people,” said Paula Griffith.

Towns said the supply now exceeding demand is due to those who want it having already gotten it and those who haven’t gotten it having no plans to get it.

“I think it’s honestly a bit of both,” she said.

Towns also thinks the politicalization of the vaccine, just as it happened with mask wearing, will make it hard to reach the 70-80 percent level needed for herd immunity.

“It breaks my heart,” she said. “Every time we lose we lose somebody in our community now that death could have been prevented.”

Towns said if Springfield City Council approves the recommendation it will most likely go into effect immediately.

City council will also vote on whether or not to begin a contract with ShotSpotters. The system uses sound waves to detect gunshots and triangulates the position. The technology provides a location to officers in 30 to 45 seconds after a gun was fired so they can respond before a 911 call.

Police Chief Paul Williams said he will use money already in his department’s budget to cover the initial three-year term of the agreement, with a cost of $430,000. Some city council members worry it would only cover a certain area of Springfield. Williams said cost prohibits the system from covering the entire city, but they can go back in and expand the area if the system works.

Williams says they took more than 15,000 shots fired calls in 2020, but they were only able to detect 337 reports of actual gunfire.

Williams said the success of the program will be evaluated over the three-year term through regular reporting and analysis of the data provided.

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