By Gary J. Groman, a.k.a. The Ole Seagull
(Please note: To meet printing deadlines this was sent to the printer before the meeting was held. The July 19 online edition of the Branson Globe will be updated to include what actually happened at the meeting.)
The Branson Board of Aldermen will hold a special, public Board meeting on Thur. July 16, 2020, at 2 PM in the Branson City Hall. Its purpose is to discuss amending Chapter 58 of the Branson Municipal Code to mandate the wearing of face coverings in public spaces to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The proposed ordinance will require all individuals age 13 and older to wear face coverings while in “indoor and outdoor public spaces” unless excepted. (Section 58-387) A “public space” is defined as “an indoor or outdoor area to which the public is invited or in which the public is permitted.” (Section 58-1) This includes, but is not limited to, Branson’s restaurants, attractions, theaters, hotels, schools, the vast majority of its businesses, and “any place where food is prepared or stored.”. The penalty for not wearing a mask where required, upon conviction, is $100.00 plus court costs. (Section 58-390)
There are exceptions to the mandatory masking. Some of the major exceptions are:
People with a health condition documented by “a medical Professional;”
1. People consuming “food drink, or smoking while seated and maintaining a physical distance of at least six feet from other persons who are not family members or reside together;
2. Any person in the water at a swimming pool;
3. Any person who is obtaining a service involving the head, face, or nose for which temporary removal of the face covering is necessary to perform the service;
4. People outdoors who are closer than six feet to family members or people who they reside with.
A complete list of proposed exceptions is contained in Section 58-387 of the Branson Municipal Code.
The proposed ordinance also contains a mandatory provision for signage at each entrance and exit. The signs must be 8.5 x 11 inches and, in red lettering, at least one-half an inch high on a white background, saying:
1. IT IS A VIOLATION OF THE LAW TO ENTER THE PREMISES WITHOUT A FACE COVERING. IF YOU DO NOT FEEL WELL GO HOME.
2. PLEASE MAINTAIN AT LEAST SIX FEET (6’) OF DISTANCE BETWEEN INDIVIDUALS THAT ARE NOT FAMILY MEMBERS OR DO NOT RESIDE TOGETHER.
The proposed ordinance has penalties for any person “who owns, manages, operates, or otherwise controls a public place where wearing face covering is required and who fails to comply or require compliance.” They include a $100 fine plus court costs and the potential suspension or revocation of the business permit or license. (Section 58-390)
City staff has requested a double reading. This means that if approved, the ordinance will go into effect at 12:01 AM July 20, 2020, and remain in effect until 11:59 PM on August 20, 2020 “unless extended by the Emergency Management Director and City Administrator under authority granted by the Board of Aldermen.”
If approved, the city of Branson will join over 20 states and a growing number of businesses and other entities mandating face coverings. These include competing tourist destinations such as Pigeon Forge, TN, and local businesses such as Menards, Dollar Tree, Starbucks, Silver Dollar City, and others.
On July 15, 2020, the Chief Operating Officers for both Walmart U.S. and Sam’s Club announced that they would require all shoppers to wear a face covering starting on Monday, July 20, 2020. While acknowledging that people have different opinions on masking, they said, “we recognize the role we can play to help protect the health and well-being of the communities we serve by following the evolving guidance of health officials like the CDC.”