Renew & Strengthen SGF MO Mask Ordinance
Sign on letter to Mayor McClure and the Springfield City Council on renewing and strengthening the Masking Ordinance:
Dear Mayor Ken McClure and Springfield City Council
On July 4th, 80 Ozarks faith leaders published a letter in support of our local public health officials. On a day dedicated to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, we affirmed that the lives of our neighbors come first. On July 13th you affirmed your support for the same values, passing a mandatory face covering ordinance to protect our community from COVID-19. We are grateful for the leadership you showed in the midst of the pandemic.
Three months later, we urge you not only to renew the face covering ordinance that has shielded our neighbors from the dangers of the novel coronavirus, but to strengthen the ordinance to promote more consistent compliance. Once again, we urge you to listen to our health care professionals, who continue to support mandatory masking. Like them, we affirm the ancient ethical injunction to protect the vulnerable and to first do no harm.
In recent days, our local health care leaders have warned that Springfield’s hospitals are on the verge of reaching capacity for COVID-19 patients. More Ozarkers have died from COVID-19 in the past month than in the previous six months put together. Medical professionals agree that the case load would have been higher without masking. Nowhere has this been more evident than in our colleges and universities, whose leaders strongly endorse the widespread use of face coverings. Students who live on campus have been the least likely to contract COVID-19. Faculty cases have also been rare.
Lifting Springfield’s face covering ordinance would make a dangerous situation even worse. Blessed with strong health care institutions, Springfield is surrounded by communities that refuse to require masks. Lifting Springfield’s ordinance would open the floodgates to a tide of COVID-19 cases and deaths, overwhelming our hospitals and health care workers.
We are grateful for both the City’s efforts to promote masking and to our fellow citizens who wear their masks and practice social distancing. However, noncompliance by a minority of people continues to put our people in danger. The current ordinance excuses from liability any person who owns, operates or otherwise controls a place where face coverings is required if “a patron or customer refuses to wear a Face Covering” Section 58-1104(b). This loophole excuses places of public accommodation from any responsibility for complying with masking guidelines. We believe any person or business that is profiting from the continued patronage of our citizens should be held liable for serving or allowing on their premises any individual(s) that refuses to comply with the ordinance and thus put all of us at risk.
We also urge the council to strengthen the ordinance by addressing two other loopholes. Consistent with the Springfield Public Schools policy, a face covering ordinance should cover children as young as pre-K. It should also direct those who cannot mask due to health conditions to avoid public establishments to protect themselves and others. Businesses should be able to offer safer shopping alternatives (e.g., curbside pickup and delivery) for those who cannot mask.
Our Independence Day letter was endorsed by a wide swath of the Springfield community, including Assemblies of God, Baptist, Catholic, Disciples of Christ, Evangelical, Episcopal, Jewish, Methodist, Pentecostal, Presbyterian, Unitarian Universalist, and Vineyard signatories. Our letter was signed by religious, secular, and spiritual leaders.
Today we come to you again with an urgent plea: Renew and strengthen the Springfield face covering ordinance and protect the lives of our neighbors.
Faith Voices of Southwest Missouri
Coalition on Masking
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