The day has come: Friday, May 28 marks end of Springfield’s mask mandate

Published: May. 27, 2021 at 6:31 PM CDT|Updated: May. 27, 2021 at 8:21 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - Friday will mark the first time since March 2020 that Springfield will not be under a civil state of emergency because of the pandemic.

Since that time there was a stay-at-home order, a mask mandate and three phases of recovery that included occupancy limits, masking and physical distancing requirements during the red and yellow phases.

But as of midnight Thursday night, all that is over as Springfield finally enters the green phase with virtually all those rules lifted except for mask requirements in some places like the airport and municipal court.

For many people May 28 will go down as the day we finally got back to at least some sense of normalcy and certainly a relief that we are no longer required to wear a mask by law.

“It represents the end of 14 months that no one could have ever predicted was going to happen,” said Springfield Mayor Ken McClure on Thursday, the final day of the mask mandate. To see this phase come to an end is so significant and very meaningful. We want the people of Springfield to know that we are very grateful. Everyone sacrificed and you saw Springfield at its very best, being resilient and bouncing back. I think we have dealt with this the best of any community in the state. But we’re going to have COVID for a while and it means that we still have to be careful and take precautions.”

McClure made those comments at the Discovery Center, an interactive science museum that during the pandemic changed its role to meet community needs by becoming a child care center and private school.

“We had so many examples of collaboration and the Discovery Center met a real need in our community going all the way back to 2020,” McClure pointed out.

“We gave over 150,000 hours of free child care, over 50,000 free meals and snacks and helped over a thousand child enrollments,” explained Discovery Center Executive Director Rob Blevins. “A lot of kids had problems with their virtual learning. The kids in our care we were able to keep them all current. In fact we had students that came to us behind in their learning, even students who were suicidal that they were really struggling where we could get them back in-person and get them caught up on their learning.”

The Discovery Center isn’t the only example of changes for the better that happened during the pandemic. The “Have Faith Initiative” was formed to coordinate the faith community’s response to the health crisis but also took on other causes such as helping provide homeless shelters.

“The ‘Have Faith Initiative’ came about in the spring of last year with clergy from all different types of faith and denominations asking what they could do to help,” McClure recalled. “They had to meet virtually just like everyone else but they uplifted everyone in prayer and they offered so much guidance, support and a lot of help like food for various entities and helping with the homeless population. This organization did not exist before the spring of 2020 so I hope that’s a collaboration that continues.”

But the civil emergency had its divisive side too. The requirement to wear masks brought a lot of wrath upon city council members.

Some of the comments expressed at the numerous public hearings:

“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 master.”

McClure expressed his sadness over seeing what he saw as a health issue become a political issue.

“I hated that,” he said. “Both locally, in the state and nationally. That should have never become a political issue. But the council was unanimous in all of this. Even though we differ on various other topics there was no divisiveness in council during all of this. In terms of sitting through all the public comments, we heard from many people but we heard from the same people a lot of times. But that’s their right. They’re certainly entitled to their opinion. But we tried to make our decisions based upon not politics but certainly what the science and the data were showing. To me it’s not a Democrat, Republican or Libertarian issue, it’s an interest of balancing the public safety with the needs of the community and I think we did a very, very good job.”

As the restrictions are being lifted in Springfield, city offices will be reopening to the public starting on Tuesday, June 1.

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