By Gary Groman, Columnist Emeritus
On May 4, 2020, the Branson Board of Aldermen took action resulting in no mandatory city regulations or ordinances protecting the health and safety of Branson residents and visitors from the threat of the COVID-19 virus. Instead of their previous COVID ordinances, they decided to use the statewide Order of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) dated April 27, implementing Phase 1 of Missouri’s “Show Me Strong Recovery” plan.
On June 11, 2020, Missouri Governor Mike Parson announced that Missouri would enter Phase 2 of its “Show Me Strong Recovery” Plan on Tuesday, June 16, 2020. His announcement said that during Phase 2, “there will be no statewide health order. All statewide restrictions will be lifted, though local officials will still have the authority to put further rules, regulations, or ordinances in place.” To date, Branson has not exercised its authority to “put further rules, regulations, or ordinances in place.
On June 25, the Taney County Health Department passed a Resolution imploring “Taney County residents and visitors to protect the public’s health by wearing face coverings while in any indoor public places to interrupt disease transmission and protect the public’s health.” The Resolution states that “numerous epidemiologists have insisted that widespread use of a facemask is necessary to prevent the more rapid spread of the COVID-19 virus.” It also points out “that the United States Centers for Disease Control recommends that members of the public, when they need to interact with others outside the home, and especially in settings where many people are present, should cover their mouth and nose to prevent inadvertently spreading COVID-19.”
Kara Miller, Community Health Educator, and back up Public Information Officer for the Taney Country Health Department, emphasized the importance of wearing face masks to reduce the spread of COVID-19. When asked if wearing a mask was as crucial as social distancing, Miller said, “It’s more important because COVID-19 spreads through droplets… The wearing of a face mask reduces the exposure to others from the mask wearers droplets resulting from things like talking, coughing, or sneezing. That helps stop the spread of the virus.”
Given the above and no mandatory ordinances or orders protecting Branson’s citizens, businesses, and visitors from the spread of the COVID-19 virus, we asked the city three questions. The questions and the city’s responses are below:
Question: Does the city have any plans to institute mandatory masking in those situations where social distancing cannot be maintained or otherwise?
Answer: “The city fully supports all Taney County Health Department efforts and COVID-19 health precautions, including its recent Resolution advocating for the use of face coverings while in public places to help restrict the spread of the COVID-19 virus. The city has always encouraged residents and community members to follow all federal (CDC), State (DHSS), and local (TCHD) guidelines.”
Question: If so, what are they at this point, and when will they be presented to the BOA?
Answer: [Unanswered because of the answer to Q1.]
Question: If not, in view of the Taney County Health Department Resolution regarding masking, why not?
Answer: “The health and safety of Branson residents, businesses, and visitors remain a top priority for the City of Branson. As Missouri re-opens, an emergency declaration still remains valid for the State and the City. The City of Branson encourages all residents, guests, and businesses to follow federal (CDC), state (DHSS), and local (Taney County Health Department) guidelines, resolutions, and recommendations found here: https://www.taneycohealth.org/covid19/ to help reduce the risk of or spread of COVID 19.
‘The City of Branson continues to work in coordination with partner agencies, as well as the state and federal government, to monitor this evolving situation and to ensure our response actions are based on the latest facts.”