Government has the authority to require masks in public

Published: Jul. 7, 2020 at 10:31 PM CDT
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This time next week, you could be required to wear a mask when indoors while in Springfield city limits.

Monday night Springfield city council is expected to take up and possibly vote on an ordinance requiring masks in public.

This has many asking if the government, on any level, can make anyone wear a mask to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Springfield-Greene County Health officials have released data showing how the virus is spreading. These figures are backed up by hospital officials.

Steve Edwards, CEO of CoxHealth wrote a letter to council in favor of mandatory masking. He said that we are seeing more confirmed cases, not because of more testing, but because the disease is growing rapidly. He believes now is the time to put an ordinance in place.

Lilly Gramm said, "It takes our rights away."

"One hundred percent, to protect us. It's easy to wear a mask. It's not going to hurt you," said Robin Highfill.

Many in Springfield are questioning the council's legal right to require masks.

"Don't force somebody to do something they don't want to or need to," said Gramm.

Highfill said, "I disagree with them. I think it's easy to wear a mask and not catch the corona virus."

Some believe they are losing some of their rights if an ordinance requiring masks in public is approved.

"One of the go to's is always, that's unconstitutional. I'm not even talking about masks, just anything you don't agree with. That's not constitutional. One of the things that you do need to ask sometimes, if somebody has that feeling, you might say, where is it in the constitution that says that you have the right not to wear a mask," explained Daniel Ponder, Ph.D.

He is Political Science Director of the L.E. Meador Center for Politics and Citizenship at Drury University. He said that governments, whether local, state or federal have the say right now.

He said, "Right now, the question of whether or not Missouri or Springfield has the right to require masks is actually a fairly simple one.

The answer is yes, they do have the right to do that."

Ponder explained that the U.S. Constitution allows for government to have reserve powers.

"There are expansive powers that governments, in general have, in emergencies such as pandemics," he said.

This includes the ability to regulate safety, morality and health.

"If city council does move forward, you may not agree with it, but they have the authority to do that," said Ponder.

Lilly Gramm said, "Just like people have the option of vaccinating or not vaccinating."

"We should have the option to wear a mask or not have to wear a mask," continued her husband Robert Gramm.

Jeff Highfill said, "It's kind of being selfish not wearing one and being around people."

Health department officials released some information regarding enforcement referring to the Clean Indoor Air Act. It's a health-related ordinance that applies a penalty of $50 for individuals and $100 for businesses found to be in violation.

The official mandatory masking ordinance and any penalties for violating it have not been officially released yet.