MARYVILLE, Mo. — The Maryville Council extended the city’s face covering mandate through Nov. 24 in a 3-2 vote Monday evening.
Although two council members, Jason McDowell and Mayor Benjamin Lipiec, voted against the extension, the council wasn’t so much divided about whether to approve the extension as when.
The initial mask mandate, passed in July, expires on Sept. 30. McDowell and Lipiec both preferred to wait on any decision to extend it until the next City Council meeting on Sept. 28, with McDowell pointing in particular to the results of a mass testing clinic held Monday in Maryville that would be available at that point.
But proponents of extending the mandate said that even if daily positive cases of COVID-19 continued to decline, as they have since dramatically spiking a couple of weeks ago when Northwest Missouri State University students returned to campus, that would not be a signal to let the mask mandate lapse, but instead to keep the foot on the gas pedal.
Council member Tye Parsons, who initially introduced the motion to extend the mandate, said that prior to university students returning for classes, the mask mandate had successfully brought down the daily case numbers, and extending the mandate would continue to keep numbers lower.
The data, according to the online COVID-19 dashboard assembled by Northwest from reports by the Nodaway County Health Department, does correlate to Parsons’ conclusion: On July 27, when the mask mandate enforcement went into effect, the 7-day daily average of new positive cases was nine per day. Two weeks later, just before college students returned to campus, that number had plummeted to three per day.
“If in two weeks, we see that the numbers have continued to decline, do you think that we should stop mitigating this virus?” said council member Rachael Martin, who was attending Monday’s meeting remotely. “Because I don’t think that, from the information that I’ve gathered about how the rest of the year is going to look … (the pandemic) is close to over.
“So, I think stopping when it’s working the most — if that’s the outcome that you’re predicting — is exactly the opposite (of what we should do). I think that we should forge forward with what we see is working best for our community.”
Parsons and Martin also said that making a decision, including potentially allowing the mandate to lapse, on Sept. 28 would give business owners, schools and others just a few days of notice.
“I don’t see two more weeks of data changing my mind, I think Rachael’s right,” Parsons said. “I think that the pandemic’s not over in two weeks. I think we have to continue to move forward, and I think we have to give our partners, including the school district, some time to implement.”
Additionally, Parsons said, Northwest, the health department and Mosaic Medical Center - Maryville all supported the extension of the mask mandate.
“As I look at the data, as I look at the comments from our partners, as I see the news today that the United States’ deaths have surpassed 194,000, I think it is our duty to do what we can and to extend our face covering ordinance — and to discuss other mitigation activities.”
Initially, Parsons had proposed an extension that would last through the end of the year, but council member Matt Johnson suggested the Nov. 24 date to coincide with the end of Northwest’s in-person classes for the fall semester and students’ exodus from Maryville for winter break.
Johnson joined Parsons and Martin voting in favor of the extension, which can be repealed or extended further at any time between now and Nov. 24.
Both Lipiec and McDowell, despite voting no, made clear that they believed the face covering ordinance has been successful and were interested in extending it, but preferred to wait until the next meeting to decide for sure whether an extension was warranted.