By: Gary J. Groman, a.k.a. The Ole Seagull
On Thursday, July 16, 2020, July 16, 2020, the Branson Board of Aldermen held a special public meeting to discuss a bill amending Chapter 58 of the Branson Municipal Code. The amendment would mandate the wearing of face coverings in public spaces to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
After a staff report recommended the bill’s approval and hours of comments by the public, the board postponed voting on the bill until its July 28 meeting. During a meeting with city officials earlier this week, they said that there would be no further public comment before that vote.
City Administrator Stan Dobbins said, “Residents in each Ward of Branson elect two aldermen to represent their interest. Together, the Board is responsible for voting on legislation for the City. This is not always an easy task. Especially when issues arise that people on both sides feel strongly about. The Branson Board of Aldermen has the best interest of their ward, the City, and our community at heart and are doing the best they can to make the best decision based on accurate facts.”
If the board votes against the bill and its mandated face coverings, that’s its end. If it votes to approve the bill and its mandated face coverings, a “second reading” and another vote would be required. The public may then get a chance to comment on the issue before the “second reading.”
Typically, the second reading comes as part of the Consent Agenda for the board’s next regular meeting. The board generally votes on the Consent Agenda, in total, without any public comment. However, an alderman, or member of the public, can request the removal of an item before the board votes. Once removed, it becomes the first item on the meetings Regular Agenda. At that point, the public gets an opportunity to comment on it before the board’s votes.
Another possibility is that upon approval of the bill by the board, they seek to have an emergency second reading at that same meeting. If that happens, there must be a motion and discussion on having the second reading. If the board votes for a second reading, then there must then be another motion to consider the item. The public gets an opportunity to comment on both motions.
During the July 16 meeting, the board heard comments from both those against and supporting mandatory face coverings. The reasons against it included the concerns that face coverings don’t prevent the spread of COVID, the impact of wearing masks if not appropriately worn, the impact of wearing masks on other medical conditions, violation of constitutional rights, the potential effect on tourists coming to Branson; enforcement issues, freedom of choice, and many others.
The comments and staff report supporting the face covering mandate boiled down to one primary point, “It helps control the spread of the COVID-19 virus from one person to another.”
Dr. Shawn Usery, MD, FHM, the Chief Medical Officer, Administration, for Cox Medical Center in Branson, presented the science of how that happens. He stressed that one of the primary ways the disease spreads is through respiratory droplets from those with COVID-19. He said, “As I am talking to somebody without a mask on those respiratory droplets travel in the range of about six (6) to eight (8) feet. If I’m singing or yelling, the droplet may go further.
‘Wearing a mask over our nose and mouth, even just a simple cloth mask, reduces the number of droplets and the distance they travel. The distance isn’t zero, and there are still things that make it through, but face masks reduce the risk of transmission from one person to another significantly.’”
To illustrate the point, Dr. Usery shared information about a case from the July 14 CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. It reports on two Springfield, Missouri salon hairstylists who, while working at the salon, unknowingly had COVID-19. In combination, the two stylists worked on over 136 customers during about a week.
Both wore masks, as did all of the customers they served. The report indicates that not a single client or other hairstylists in the salon came down with the virus. However, it further points out that four individuals living in the same “home” as one of the stylists did test positive for COVID-19. In conclusion, the report recommends, the consistent and correct use of face coverings as an important tool for minimizing the spread of COVID-19.