COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)
Boone County Commission members said Monday that they're discussing a mask requirement for the county as coronavirus cases continue to rise.
Commissioners brought up the mask ordinance in a conference call with local leaders from across the county Monday morning. Columbia already has a mask requirement in place but the county has so far declined to require face coverings.
However, coronavirus cases are rising fast around the county, with the Columbia/Boone County Health Department reporting 330 new cases over the weekend. Those cases pushed the five-day average of new daily cases to a record.
Department assistant director Scott Clardy said Monday that a large percentage of COVID-19 patients in Boone County hospitals are coming from areas outside Columbia. Local leaders have said they're concerned with staffing at hospitals amid the record numbers. Clardy said, "One of them even commented that up to 30 days ago he would of said no, let each of the municipalities deal with it by themselves but with what we're seeing now the higher and higher proportions of Boone County cases coming from outside of Columbia I think they're seeing the need for that."
Leaders from Ashland, Centralia and Hallsville say they are on board and in with a countywide mask mandate. Centralia Mayor Chris Cox and Hallsville Mayor Logan Carter said a requirement would keep their cities' residents safe. Centralia's Mayor Chris Cox said, "If Boone County chooses for us to go to a mask mandate we'll support that and we will move along with that, that way we're aligned with the county. I like to try and stay as aligned with the county as possible I think it makes sense."
Carter said Hallsville's schools have been successful in keeping students and staff healthy because of masks and following other guidelines.
Leaders in other areas of Mid-Missouri have so far decided not to require masks. Jefferson City Mayor Carrie Tergin said her city strongly encourages residents to wear masks and follow guidelines such as social distancing and good hand hygiene.
Tergin said officials hope residents will follow CDC guidelines for Thanksgiving and look at alternatives to gathering with families in person. Tergin said she will not be joining her family in person this year for Thanksgiving but will have a virtual celebration with her family on Zoom.
Tergin explained, "It's very clear what we're asking people to do, to stay home if they're sick wear their masks keep their distance it's very important physical distancing social distancing keeping away from crowds, especially going into the holiday season, not forgetting that here with Thanksgiving week that we do need to keep our distance no matter what there is not time that we should be close to people especially with the holidays we need to really watch that."
Boone County District Northern District Commissioner Janet Thompson said the county is struggling with how to discipline people who violate a mask order. Thompson said the county commission is planning to meet again on Dec. 1 to decide how to move forward with enforcing the mandate and dealing with violations.
The commission is looking at a 30-day trial period for a mask mandate. The county would use data to evaluate its effectiveness before extending the requirement.
Southern District Commissioner Fred Parry, the lone Republican on the commission who has sometimes been at odds with his colleagues over the county's health orders, asked those on the call if anyone was opposed to a mask mandate. No one said they were.
Parry said hearing support from local officials has changed his mind about a mask mandate, according to the minutes of the meeting.