Mayor Brian Treece tweeted Friday evening that he wants an ordinance that would require face masks to be worn in public.
His announcement came on the same day that Boone County reported an 8.2% positivity rate for the county’s COVID-19 tests.
That rate is an indication that the virus is spreading more rapidly within the community, according to Scott Clardy, assistant director for the Boone County Health Department.
An ordinance would need to be considered and passed by the Columbia City Council to go into effect.
“Today I asked the City Manager to have an ordinance drafted to require masks in all public settings,” Treece tweeted at 5:37 p.m.”With rising cases of coronavirus, this is a responsible & simple public health initiative to curb the spread of COVID-19, protect public health and keep our economy open.”
In an interview before Treece’s tweet, Clardy said the Health Department is currently reviewing research about face mask requirements. He added that the department will base its decision on the science available.
The 8.2% positivity rate represents the rate for tests conducted from June 19 to Thursday, showing that the virus is spreading more rapidly within the community, Clardy said.
Based on the Health Department’s investigations, Clardy said it appears that people are not practicing social distancing and are currently feeling caution fatigue.
“We are hearing stories of people doing things like sitting shoulder-to-shoulder at baseball games and sharing drinks,” Clardy said. “When people are being asked to social distance, these kinds of activities are irresponsible. People could be transmitting the virus at any time. We are asking people to be more community minded.”
The Health Department asks all residents to adhere to social distancing recommendations, which includes maintaining 6 feet of physical distancing, staying home when sick, regular hand washing, disinfecting common touch surfaces and wearing a face mask.
In the last week, the county conducted 837 tests, which is fewer than previous weeks. However, Clardy said it’s still a large number of tests, and the 69 positive cases found during that time is significant.
Boone County reported 15 new case of COVID-19 on Friday, continuing a four-day trend of daily double-digit COVID-19 cases, according to the county’s COVID-19 dashboard. There are 334 total cases of COVID-19 in Boone County and 97 active cases as of Friday.
Of the total cases, 35 were exposed via travel, 175 via contact with a confirmed case, 98 through community transmission and 26 are pending or unknown.
The county reports five different age groups in its information hub. On Friday, the 15-24 age group overtook the 25-44 age group for the most COVID-19 cases across all age groups.
The Health Department has said that young people are increasingly contracting the virus. While young people often don’t endure serious cases of the virus, they can still spread the virus to vulnerable populations.
There are six Boone County residents hospitalized and no new deaths.
There are no plans to roll back any guidelines for the health order because the Health Department believes it can get COVID-19 under control as long as people follow social distancing, Clardy said.
“We don’t want to go back to a stay-at-home order because of the huge economic impact that it had not just on businesses, but on individuals,” Clardy said.
When university and college students return to Columbia, the county is expecting a spike in cases. In preparation, the Health Department is working with higher education institutions in Columbia.
“But those students don’t just stay on campus,” Clardy said. “They’re out in the community too, which is a major concern to us. We expect to see a spike, not only in cases among students but in cases among the community also.”