MARYVILLE, Mo. — The Maryville City Council Monday voted 4-1 to extend the city’s face covering ordinance until the end of January.
The ordinance, which requires masks be worn in most indoor public areas and in large groups, was set to expire on Nov. 24, coinciding with the date when Northwest Missouri State University students are set to leave for the end of in-person classes for the fall semester. The measure has now been extended through 11:59 p.m. on Jan. 31, 2021. According to the online Nodaway County COVID-19 dashboard, the 20-29 age group continues to drive new infections of COVID-19, with more than a third of all positive and probable tests coming from that demographic.
City Manager Greg McDanel said the World Health Organization recommends that new case rates stay below 5 percent over a 14-day period. As of Monday, the rate of new cases in Nodaway County over the past 14 days is about 14 percent. One in 15 Nodaway County residents have tested positive for COVID-19.
The extension, which had the backing of the Nodaway County Health Department, Mosaic Medical Center - Maryville and Northwest, comes as the county recorded its highest total to date of active cases last Friday — 296 — and its 11th death this weekend. New cases have been on the rise for the past three weeks both locally and across the country, reaching new heights and threatening to climb higher.
There was little discussion of the ordinance as four Council members quickly voted yes after hearing the statistics and the recommendations from the health department, Mosaic and Northwest. Mayor Benjamin Lipiec, who along with Jason McDowell voted against the mandate’s extension in September, was the lone dissenting vote this time around.
“This country’s very divided right now, and … my personal feeling is that I’ll speak for the people that feel like the mask ordinance needs to go back to the people of this community to decide whether they want to wear them or not,” Lipiec told The Forum after the meeting. “And, I support and full-heartedly will wear a mask based on what the other Council members do, but my personal opinion is that I feel like it’s time to let the people decide on if they … choose to wear them or not.”
Lipiec said that he would prefer allowing individuals to make decisions on what “is necessary for themselves and their families.”
“And if you don’t feel safe going out in public, if you don’t feel safe going to a restaurant, you know, there’s so many opportunities out there now — delivery, groceries, whatever — that if you don’t feel safe, there’s a lot of options out there for you to stay away from it,” he said.
In the workplace, Lipiec said companies should decide what’s best in order for their employees to keep working.
“We … have 28,000 employees (in Maryville) and the risk we take of shutting down downstream companies because we have a large infection or large group that has to quarantine or get sick is the risk that (companies that require masks) are not willing to take, so they put that out there,” Lipiec, who works at a company which requires masks in a manner similar to the city’s ordinance, said. “And obviously it’s my job that takes care of my family, so I have to wear a mask.”
In the past, however, other Council members have said that it’s not just individuals or their families put at risk when not wearing a mask or social distancing, it’s anyone they could come into contact with, and contacts of those contacts.
Lipiec also said that despite the ordinance, many people don’t wear masks or wear them properly. He added that he hopes that when college students leave town, the numbers in the county will drop enough to make his colleagues on the Council more comfortable with reconsidering the ordinance ahead of its expiration on Feb. 1.
He said that he has heard from members of the community “on both sides” of the issue, and Council members Rachael Martin and Tye Parsons also said during the meeting that they appreciated the email feedback they received from residents about the mask ordinance.
“Thank you to all of the citizens of Maryville that have sent in all the emails over the last three or four days with regard to the mask mandate,” Parsons said. “I know that’s a touchy issue, but the emails were polite and they were really just trying to be very helpful, I thought. I personally appreciated that communication; I’m glad people are able to use the website to send information or comments to the City Council. Just know that we read every one of those things that come in, so we really appreciate that, that communication.”