The Ashland Board of Aldermen passed a citywide mask advisory by a vote of 5 to 1 during a special meeting Saturday, as urged by Mayor Richard Sullivan.
Sullivan compared the mask advisory to a severe weather advisory, saying it is the city government's responsibility to let people know of the situation and advise them to stay safe. He said multiple serious situations have recently arisen concerning city staff and COVID-19 safety.
"We feel there is enough activity in the city of Ashland and directly outside of Ashland right now that it’s our responsibility as leaders to say you should be wearing a mask," Sullivan said.
The board and Sullivan expressed during the meeting that they do not support any kind of mask mandate. Alderman Bryan Bradford voted against the mask advisory.
Sullivan tested positive for COVID-19 last week and has been quarantining at home with his family. He works full time in health care as a hospital chaplain and said in a Facebook post Friday he has had a “front-row view of the seriousness of the situation.”
Ashland resident Ken Bishop spoke up against the mask advisory during public comment.
"I don't think people need to be advised," Bishop said. "I think the citizens of this town are smart enough. If they're uncomfortable, they'll wear a mask."
Bishop said he has previously been infected with COVID-19 but still believed an advisory is unnecessary.
Other citizens were in support of the mask advisory but disappointed that a mandate was not considered.
Cody Murphy, an ICU nurse at Truman Veterans' Hospital and Ashland resident, spoke in support of the mask advisory and warned the board and public of another effect of increasing case rates.
"That isn’t just a problem for individuals with COVID-19, it's a problem for individuals having a stroke ... heart attack ... individuals who are diabetic and going into ketoacidosis," Murphy said. "The problem arises when those individuals need hospital care and there aren’t beds available because they’re being taken up by COVID-19 patients."
Boone County medical officials have in recent weeks urged residents to wear masks and practice social distancing if public health rules are not present. As of Friday evening, the county is reporting 1,152 active cases, according to its dashboard, and has in recent weeks reported all-time high hospitalizations. Columbia City Council passed an ordinance mandating masks in July.
Gov. Mike Parson signed an executive order Thursday that extended the COVID-19 state of emergency in the state through March 31 but said he will not be issuing any kind of statewide mask mandate.