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Coronavirus

Mask order’s wording will affect enforcement at businesses

COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)

As Columbia leaders are crafting an order to potentially require citizens to wear masks in public, it poses the question of enforcement.

Mayor Brian Treece posted on Twitter on Friday that he asked City Manager John Glascock to draft an ordinance for the city council to consider. Treece called it a "simple public health initiative" to possibly slow the spread of COVID-19 as infections continue to rise.

Assistant Director of the Columbia/Boone County Health Department Scott Clardy said the first part of enforcement is making sure people understand exactly what is required of them.

"What the requirements are, when you have to wear a mask and when you don't have to wear a mask, who's exempted from wearing a mask," Clardy said. "We want to make sure that is abundantly clear to people."

If there is a violation, Clardy said they would first talk to the person or business about how the order is being broken.

"We would only take what most people consider 'enforcement action,' issuing a summons or a fine, or something like that if we had some place that was an habitual bad actor that refused to come into compliance," Clardy said.

Several other states and cities across the country have had similar orders in place. Tina Potthoff, a spokesperson for Hy-Vee, said about 10 of their stores have already had to work under similar orders.

Potthoff said while they put up signs stating the store is in compliance with the local order, it depends on the language of the local order on how it is enforced.

If there are exemptions for those with medical conditions, Potthoff said employees cannot ask customers why they aren't wearing a mask.

"If someone walks into our store, it's not our judgment to tell someone they fit that description or not," Potthoff said. "In order to be able to police it in the areas that we currently have it in effect, that has not been something that has been put on the retailer."

Clardy said exceptions for medical conditions will likely be a part of the new order.

"It's something we will have to develop some guidance for businesses and retailers on knowing how to deal with that situation," Clardy said. "We realize it's something we are going to have to address."

John Gilbreth, the owner of Pizza Tree in downtown Columbia, said he supports a order to wear masks to keep the community and his employees safe. He has still not allowed customers inside to dine, only operating as delivery and through walk-up windows.

"It's not going to help with sales, but we are really lucky and we have been able to adapt to the situation and we will continue to adapt to the situation," Gilbreth said. "We'll do whatever is called for."

Watch ABC 17 News at 9 and 10 for a full report.

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Connor Hirsch

Connor Hirsch reports for the weekday night shows, as well as Sunday nights.

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