Boone County will be under a mask mandate starting Wednesday as an emergency response to rising cases of COVID-19 in the community.
County commissioners voted 2-1 to endorse the mandate.
Scott Clardy, the Health Department’s assistant director, confirmed the mask mandate will be effective as of midnight Wednesday through Dec. 8, whereafter it may be continued, modified or rescinded based on new data.
The mask ordinance will include all cities and unincorporated areas within Boone County limits, Clardy said.
Under the order, everyone 10 years of age or older within county limits will be required to wear a mask around people outside of their household, according to a news release.
A month ago, local leaders had the view that COVID-19 numbers did not warrant a mask order countywide, Commissioner Janet Thompson said, explaining that in a meeting Monday, none of the same leaders were against instituting a mask mandate due to rising case numbers.
“I support wearing a mask; it’s a matter of human decency and consideration,” said Commissioner Fred Parry, who voted against the measure Tuesday. “I’m uncomfortable with the commission telling community leaders in surrounding cities what’s best for their communities.”
Parry explained that he believes it is incumbent upon local mayors to decide on mandates to best protect their citizens.
The commission held a work session Monday to discuss the potential mask mandate after an update from Stephanie Browning, Columbia/Boone County Public Health and Human Services director, according to previous Missourian reporting.
Browning reported an increase in the county’s number of active COVID-19 cases to 371, which made the total case count 9,452, according to previous Missourian reporting.
Thompson supports the mask mandate because, she said, the virus does not respect jurisdictional boundaries.
“We realized we needed to do something to keep people safe,” Thompson said, explaining that the commission had the support of leadership from various communities within the county.
Ashland Mayor Richard Sullivan, who has COVID-19 and is isolating at home, expressed concern about how politicized the issue was becoming after hearing about the new countywide mask ordinance.
“People should realize that this is about protecting each other,” Sullivan said, explaining that while people are ultimately concerned about their wellbeing, they are also concerned about the economy and local businesses.
Sullivan also articulated concerns about enforcing a countywide mask mandate, which people may disobey.
Enforcement will be based on routine inspections and following up on complaints, according to the county news release. The order recommends fines of $15 for individuals and $100 for businesses and nonprofits.
A mask is defined as a facial covering made of permeable material that covers the nose and mouth, which, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirms, protects the wearer and others from being exposed to and infected with COVID-19.
Exceptions to the mask mandate include people who have medical conditions (physical or mental) or a disability that prevents them from wearing a mask safely.
Other exceptions include the following instances:
- While outdoors when able to maintain a distance of at least 6 feet from others.
- While exercising outdoors or when exercising indoors and able to maintain a 6 foot distance.
- When playing a sport or sporting activity as authorized by the existing health order.
- When at home with only members of your household.
- When in your personal car/vehicle with yourself and/or only members of your household.
- While eating or drinking when seated at a table in a restaurant or bar (there is no exception to the mask requirement for people who are standing and eating or drinking).
- When getting a service that requires the temporary removal of a mask, such as during a dental exam, facial, makeup application, etc.
- When the removal of the mask is necessary to confirm identity.
- When federal or state law prohibits wearing a mask or requires the removal of a mask, such as when going through TSA at the airport.
- When requested by a law enforcement officer, medical provider or emergency response personnel.
- When at your place of work, safely distanced from other people, for example, in your office.
On Tuesday, two statewide medical organizations, the Missouri State Medical Association and the Missouri Nurses Association, reiterated their call for Gov. Mike Parson to institute a statewide mask mandate.
Barring that, they recommended other steps the governor could take, including recommending limiting holiday travel and encouraging businesses to require masks.