COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)
Boone County's health director has modified her COVID-19 order to include a mask requirement for the entire county.
The order goes into effect Wednesday and remains in effect until Dec. 8. The Columbia/Boone County Department of Public Health and Human Services announced the order in a news release Tuesday after the county commission voted 2-1 to endorse the order.
The order is similar to one put in place in Columbia in July and requires everyone 10 or older to wear a mask when around people who are not household members. The order includes some exemptions.
"This unified front in our fight to reduce the spread of COVID-19 will not only help protect ourselves and our loved ones but also our local healthcare and frontline workers," health director Stephanie Browning said in a news release.
The Boone County Commission approved an emergency ordinance Tuesday endorsing the mask mandate to fight the spread of coronavirus.
The commission signaled its intentions during a conference call with leaders from Boone County cities and school districts Monday. On Tuesday the commission voted 2-1 to approve the ordinance.
Southern District Commissioner Fred Parry, the commission's lone Republican, voted against the measure, saying he would prefer a mask advisory instead of a requirement.
Violations are Class A misdemeanors, according to the order. However, the order suggests a $15 fine for individuals and $100 for businesses.
Northern District Commissioner Janet Thompson said she wishes that an advisory was enough but she does not feel some people will wear masks.
Watch a replay of the meeting in the player below.
Hospitals are stretched thin as coronavirus case rates continue at record levels. Thompson said Boone Hospital Center is in the "red" level of the county's red-blue-green scale of assessing hospital capacity. University of Missouri Hospital is teetering on the edge of red, she said.
"They believe that they are at the brink of not being able to deal with all the cases that are coming their way," Thompson said of the hospitals.
As of Monday, the county's hospitals reported 171 patients with COVID-19. Of those, 50 are in intensive care and 18 are on ventilators, according to the county health department's COVID-19 hub.
Boone County has seen eight straight days with triple-digit new cases. The county has logged 430 cases over the past three days and is in the White House coronavirus task force's "red zone" for high rates of new cases, according to a report obtained by ABC News.
The five-day average of new daily cases hit a record in Boone County on Monday.
Thompson said Tuesday that local leaders have asked the commission to issue the order, saying the numbers they're seeing are "terrifying."
Thompson explained, “This was an emergency situation we had met yesterday morning with leadership members from each of the smaller municipalities here in Boone County and they had asked that the commission today consider putting into effect a mask order and because they are seeing their communities rising numbers of COVID infections and really serious consequences from that and we have heard in the last couple of days that Boone hospital has gone to level red so the concern in terms of our health care community has really spiraled out of control.”
"I don’t think we have a choice with the numbers that they are now," Thompson said.
Thompson said, the data from the Mask Mandate advisory will tell officials if the mandate should be extended past the December 8th date. “Viruses don’t really respect Jurisdictional boundaries. Viruses respect a mask. This virus to some degree respects a mask and that’s what they asked for they said please help us because our communities are in trouble.”, said Thompson.
Over the weekend the Ashland Board of Aldermen approved a mask advisory. The Sturgeon Board of Aldermen approved a preliminary vote for a mask order during a meeting Monday night. Another vote is expected Wednesday.
Check back or watch ABC 17 News at 5 and 6 for updates to this developing story.