3-22-21 Maryville Council

The Maryville City Council on Monday voted 4-1 to lift the mask mandate beginning Tuesday. Council member Tye Parsons, center, was the lone vote against lifting the mandate, citing advice from medical experts and feedback from community members. Rachael Martin, left, and Mayor Benjamin Lipiec, right, voted to lift the mandate.

MARYVILLE, Mo. — The Maryville City Council on Monday voted to end the citywide mask ordinance, no longer requiring that masks be worn starting Tuesday at 12:01 a.m.

Even before Mayor Benjamin Lipiec could finish announcing the first item on the meeting’s agenda Monday evening, council member Matt Johnson had made the motion to end the mask mandate, and Rachael Martin had seconded it. Both had previously voted for each extension of the mandate since it was adopted unanimously in July in response to COVID-19.

Explaining his motion, Johnson said orders like this one were designed to be temporary, and the mask ordinance had served its purpose.

“The whole point of the mask mandate was to provide some breathing room for the hospital, for emergency services, and it seems that we’ve accomplished that with the mask mandate and the length of time that it’s been in place,” Johnson said. “I don’t regret for a moment … the amount of time that we had a mask mandate in place; it was absolutely necessary. But I think that time has passed, and I hope to be proven correct about that.”

The repeal of the mandate, effective after 12 a.m. Tuesday, passed 4-1, with Tye Parsons the lone dissenting vote.

“I’ve said since July … when we voted unanimously to put (the mandate) into effect, that I would listen to our local health care officials — our regional, our state and our federal health care officials,” Parsons said. “And they’re still … urging the usage of masks until we can get our vaccination rates to a higher point. And I’ve had many, many citizens — not only over the past two weeks, but for the past 12 months — encourage me to keep the mask mandate in place, to let the vaccinations get in place so that we can get past this thing.

“And so, it’s for those two reasons I can’t support the motion tonight, but I certainly understand it and I understand the burden that’s been placed on all of us as a community.”

Each council member voiced support for each other, and frequently described the decisions they have made as a body as particularly difficult during the pandemic.

“We went into this— and it seems like so long ago — and it was a unanimous decision,” said council member Jason McDowell of the vote in July to implement the mandate. “I think that’s important to point out.”

Lipiec acknowledged the decisions have “weighed on us,” but stressed his appreciation for his fellow council members and city staff.

“I don’t think that the challenges that we’ve been through in the last 12 months together are something that hasn’t touched every single person in our community, and I just want to acknowledge that and say thank you to those who were willing to comply during the time that we had the mandate,” Martin said. “And I think we all know what the right things to do are now. I still recommend wearing a mask, but I do agree that this time, an education piece is there and we can move forward without the mandate.”

The mandate went into effect on July 22, and was extended three times: in September and November, and then again in January when the ordinance was extended until April 30 unless repealed earlier.

“I’m very proud of our community,” Parsons said. “I think that the citizens of Maryville, the vast majority of them did what was required to protect public health. They did the right thing even though it was uncomfortable, even though it was inconvenient — they did the right thing.”

City Manager Greg McDanel said that although the city will not mandate masks be worn, some businesses and organizations may still require them on their premises.

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