Masks now mandatory in Monett
City council passes ordinance in special meeting
Several weeks ago, Monett Mayor Mike Brownsberger expressed reluctance to pass a masking ordinance in the city of Monett, but commissioners met in special session Thursday to discuss, and ultimately pass, an emergency measure requiring people wear face masks to help restrict the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus).
The meeting saw both ardent supporters and vehement opposition to the move.
Darren Bass, president Cox Monett Hospital and System vice president of Community Hospital Group at CoxHealth, spoke concerning the extraordinary increase in local positives, as well as the burden it is placing on area hospitals.
“Last spring, we were at one percent,” he said. “As of today, we are at 45 percent positive cases. Our hospital is full, and our staff is limited. Earlier this week, we had to go on divert, which means we were unable to accept any more patients for treatment in our emergency room. They had to be transported elsewhere.”
During the nearly 12-hour diversion, several patients were unable to receive treatment locally.
“From 9 p.m. Monday through 10 a.m. Tuesday, when they finally went off divert, we had a total of 14 patients requiring medical care,” said Bonnie Witt-Schulte, Monett’s emergency management director and director of the Monett-Lawrence County 911 Center.
When that happens and peripheral facilities are also at capacity, patients could eventually end up being transported out of state for treatment of injuries or illness.
Bass also cited worldwide, national and local statistics for people who have tested positive for COVID-19 and the related death count.
“At Cox South [in Springfield], when patients are sick enough to be put on a ventilator, only two in eight survive,” Bass said. “Eighty percent die. Statistics show masking works. It is not foolproof, but masking does help reduce the viral load, which means if I do get it, there is a chance it won’t be as bad a case as if I had been exposed to a larger viral load.”
Dr. Elizabeth Lucore, of Cox Monett Hospital, said masking protects others, as well as herself.
“[Masking] keeps my germs to myself,” she said. “When I am wearing a mask and cough or sneeze, the germs stop at point zero, right at the end of my face. If someone does not wear a mask and coughs or sneezes, their germs can travel about 10 feet and be spread wider than my arms can reach. The gaps in my mask do not protect me from that.”
More than half a dozen people attended to voice their opposition to such a move, basing their objections on religious beliefs, medical or mental conditions and Constitutional freedoms. Those arguments were not enough to sway commissioners from enacting the ordinance as a measure of public safety and welfare, in conjunction with physical distancing and appropriate personal hygiene to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
Ordinance 8828, which went into effect immediately, states that all persons in the city of Monett shall wear a face mask when inside public facilities or businesses that are open to the public or where the public is present, in public transportation vehicles or outside in the event social distancing is not possible.
Exceptions to the ordinance are limited to any person who falls under Centers for Disease (CDC) guidance due to medical or mental condition, development disability or who are otherwise covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act; children under the age of 6; certain religious beliefs; those patronizing bars or restaurants where they are dining or consuming beverages; group or team sports where masking is not practicable or feasible; and when receiving goods or services such as dental services or medical treatments.
Businesses and public facilities open to the public are required to post signage at all entrances that masks are required to be worn inside the business; schools will continue working with the city’s emergency management department and local county health departments to implement safety protocols that include the use of face coverings.
Enforcement of the ordinance will be administered by education of the offender and the opportunity for compliance, followed by a warning, and finally, a civil citation. Violations are punishable by fines up to $50.
Businesses also have the right to refuse service to any person for failure to comply if there are no valid exceptions to that compliance.
The emergency ordinance will remain in effect until 11:59:59 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 31, 2021, unless extended or terminated by the council prior to that date.