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Health officials clarify what a mask is


Local health officials clarify what is considered a mask less than a day after Columbia City Council approved a mask-wearing ordinance.

Scott Clardy, Columbia/Boone County health department Assistant Director, said there have been many questions regarding what is considered a mask.

"The ordinance defines (a mask) as 'a covering made of cloth, fabric, or other soft or permeable material, without holes, that covers only the nose and mouth and surrounding areas of the lower face,'" Clardy said.

Clardy said the ordinance does state a mask "may be factory-made, or may be handmade and improvised from ordinary household materials." 

The ordinance requires anyone 10 or older to wear a face mask both indoors and outdoors if closer than six feet to other people.

People would not be required to wear masks when with members from their own household.

There are multiple exceptions, including people with conditions that prevent them from covering their face, while exercising outdoors and more.

Clardy said the mask should be made of two layers of cloth as research shows it stops more spit droplets from being released through the mask.

"A bandanna doubled over so that there are two layers of cloth against the nose and mouth would be fine," Clardy said.  

Clardy said health officials also consider something like a towel, T shirt or any other cotton or linen fabric, could be used to make a mask.

The local health department does not recommend the general public wear N-95 masks because they are in limited supply.

How mask-wearing will be enforced is dependent on complaints the city receives on a certain individual or business. 

Clardy said the first effort will be educating the individual or business to make sure they understand what's expected of them, and check to be sure there are not any barriers, or any reasons that this particular person may be exempted that perhaps the person who issued the complaint may not know about.

Clardy said if the city continues to receive more complaints on the same business or individual the city will have to move forward with possibly issuing some kind of a summons or a notice of violation.

The city's ordinance states that, "a person who has been convicted of a violation of this ordinance or an order implementing this ordinance may be sentenced to pay a fine which does not exceed fifteen dollars ($15.OO) for an individual and one hundred dollars ($100.00) for a business, government or non-profit entity of any kind."

Although officials do not expect that to happen often, if it does then that person would have to go to Municipal Court, Clardy said. Then it would be up to the judge to decide what kind of penalty to make. 

Clardy said if someone has a physical, mental, or behavioral condition that prevents them from wearing a mask, officials are not requiring proof and are not asking businesses to confirm that among anybody who may be in their business. 

“They don't have to carry proof with them on that,” Clardy said. We don't want well people going to the doctor's office…  taking up doctor’s time writing notes for people saying that they can't wear a mask.”

Health officials said research has shown that even though people will look for loopholes to try to not be in compliance, the large majority of the population does want to do the right thing and want to comply. 

Columbia Mayor Brian Treece said it was important for the council to review the ordinance because of two trends in the number of cases. The first trend is the doubling rate of COVID-19 cases in Boone County. This is the number of days it takes before 100 cases are reached.

Treece said the other concerning trend is the positivity rate of tests, which has gone from 0.4% in the first week of May to 14% as of July 3.

Clardy and a city spokesman said the health department is working on a document to answer any questions people have about the order. It's expected to be published on Wednesday.

Boone / Columbia / Columbia Video / Health / Mid-Missouri Business / Missouri / News / Top Stories / Video
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Amber Tabeling

Amber joined the ABC 17 News team as a multimedia journalist in December 2019. She was a student-athlete at Parkland College and Missouri Valley College. She hails from a small town in Illinois.


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