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An audience of 150 to 200 individuals fill Convention Hall Wednesday evening during a Pettis County Health Center Board of Trustees meeting. Following a one-hour public comment period, board members approved a mandatory mask order for Pettis County in an effort to lower the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19. Pictured on the front row from left are “No Mandatory Mask” spokesperson Rusty Kahrs and local attorney Stanley Cox, who has been retained as legal counsel for the group. 

Less than a week after its first meeting to consider a mandatory face mask order for Pettis County, the Pettis County Health Center Board of Trustees approved the order Wednesday night.

Following an hour-long public comment period at Convention Hall at Liberty Park, the board under the recommendation of Health Center Administrator JoAnn Martin approved the order. It will go into effect at midnight Friday, Aug. 7 and remains in effect until rescinded by Martin, who is the County Health Officer, and the board.

Board members Brody Kempton and Ann Richardson voted in favor of the motion. Doris Thurston was opposed. Board member Vicki Sena was unable to attend due to a prior commitment. According to board policies, the chairperson of the board, Phyllis Domann, votes only in the case of a tie.

Roughly 150 to 200 individuals filled Convention Hall while maintaining social distancing guidelines when possible. Almost 30 individuals were given the opportunity to speak throughout the one-hour time frame. Unlike the meeting on July 30 at the health center, those in attendance remained in order with few disruptions to those speaking. Most who spoke were in opposition to a mandatory order for Pettis County.  

The order states, “When in a place of public accommodation or public indoor space including but not limited to workplace, business, hotel, restaurant, place of worship, gym, childcare facility or public facility such as community center or library, individuals are required to wear a face covering that covers the nose and mouth simultaneously.”

The face coverings may be removed in restaurants and bars where individuals are actively eating or drinking but must be worn at all times otherwise. Face coverings are not required inside a solitary, enclosed workspace such as an office.

“The burden of COVID-19 is increasing in our community,” Martin told the Democrat prior to the meeting when explaining the need for an order. “The burden is not just those who are ill but also all of those who have been exposed and are required to stay home. This is impacting employers, workers, families, health care facilities and the community in general. 

“There are fewer people who can participate in the life and commerce of the community,” she continued. “We need to control the virus and there are no strategies left besides wearing a mask, social distancing and good hand washing.”

Martin explained the health center has tried emphasizing personal responsibility but that has not flattened the curve. 

“We are going to use this strategy,” Martin said. “If it is not successful we will look at any other options, but based upon the experience of other counties who have implemented a face covering mandate this strategy has worked. We need to do this to get our children safely back to school and keep everyone working.”

The ordinance states, “when individuals can absolutely guarantee that they will be able to maintain social distancing of at least 6 feet apart from all others masks are not required.”

Face coverings are not required when individuals such as a church pastor, keynote speaker or instructor are speaking to a group and can maintain social distancing of at least 6 feet apart from all others during the presentation. 

Others who are also exempt include individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing or have a medical condition, mental health condition or disability that prevents them from wearing a face covering. This includes persons with a medical condition for whom wearing a face covering could obstruct breathing or who are unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove a face covering without assistance. Children under age 2 should never wear a face covering due to the risk of suffocation.

Athletes are not required to wear a mask when actively engaged in a sporting activity but are required when seated on the bench, listening to coaches and other activities that do not permit maintaining a 6-foot distance between participants. Coaches are required to wear a mask.

There have been a number of questions concerning the enforcement of the order. According to RsMO statutes 192.300 and 192.320, “any person, firm, corporation or association which violates this Order is guilty of a misdemeanor and shall be prosecuted, tried, fined and/or imprisoned as otherwise provided by law.”

Martin as the Pettis County Health Officer is requesting local law enforcement in Pettis County to ensure compliance and enforcement. Parents and guardians are responsible for the behavior of their dependent juveniles.

The order goes on to state, “an owner, manager operator or employee of an area regulated by this Order may refuse service to any individual who refuses to wear a face covering in compliance with Order, however, an owner, manager, operator or employee shall neither require an individual to produce medical documentation verifying a medical condition or disability, nor ask about the nature of a medical disability.”

According to Sedalia attorney Stanley Cox, who has been retained as legal counsel for the “No Mandatory Masks” group, the health center board has no legal grounds to pass such an order.

Cox referenced a highlighted section of RsMo 192.300 on his phone that reads, “Any person, firm, corporation or association which violates any of the orders or ordinances adopted, promulgated and published by such county commission is guilty of a misdemeanor and shall be prosecuted, tried and fined or otherwise provided by law.”

Although not highlighted, the section goes on to state, “The county commission or county health board of any such county has full power and authority to initiate the prosecution of any action under this section.”

“No matter what they do tonight it is not law,” Cox told the Democrat during a five-minute break in the meeting. “The statute clearly states the county commission must take action (on the matter).”

Cox told the Democrat he plans to meet with the Pettis County Commission as early as Thursday to discuss the matter.

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Education Reporter

Hope Lecchi is the education reporter for the Democrat, covering all things education in Sedalia and Pettis County, as well as providing general assignment and feature coverage. She can be reached at 660-530-0144.

(5) comments

reggiedcope

I don't where nurse Martin is getting her "mask mandates work" from but places with mask mandates, KC, Warrensburg, and many other places are not showing measurable improvement. A vague reference from nurse Martin without naming actual counties is meaningless. I have listed Johnson County's (Warrensburg) website below to show mask enforcement since 7/6 is having little or no impact.

http://johnsoncountyhealth.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/Annotation-2020-07-31-125646.png

I

reggiedcope

It's no surprise our "elected" county health board passed a mask mandate. These are the same public health experts that wanted to do drive thru virus testing in Sedalia early in the lockdown. When questioned about bringing hundreds of Covid- 19 symptomatic people in to Sedalia in the midst of a pandemic, a Pettis County health nurse said, "We hope people stay in their cars and do not use services in Sedalia." The recent mandate is based on just as poor decision making. The number of active cases in Pettis County is 250 per 100,000 not the 857 per 100,000 number derived from using old data. It doesn't matter what the rate was over a 5 month period, it only matters what the rate is currently. Presently, we have 106 cases in a county of42,379 people. In addition, our positive test rate is much lower than the benchmark for a hotspot, 10% or greater. Nurse Martin keeps citing a study that "suggests" Missouri may have a 23 to 1 rate of actual infections to positive test results. For every one tested as positive there are 23 who are actually positive , First of all, scientific studies have conclusions not suggestions. Second, this study has not been peer reviewed, something Dr. Fauci demands for all clinical studies. Third, The results for Missouri were extremely higher than the other states and cities evaluated, making this data very questionable. Four, the study was conducted without following FDA accepted protocol and five the study was based on 5 month old data that is not applicable today. Finally, I find it amazing that we have given an unelected county health nurse this much power over 42,739 people. She must be very pleased. Pettis County has entered the world of big city covid controls.

Wear a mask, dummy.

Always nice to see whiny GOP man children lose. Thank you PCHC for doing what is rigght, regardless of what the brain dead attendees thought.

reggiedcope

Got that wrong, voted for Obama twice. I had nothing to lose, if I wanted I wouldn't have wear a mask because of a health condition . I do wear a mask moron. You just don't get it, it's about mask mandates, not wearing masks. Get is rigght next time.

reggiedcope

Just so you know, I wore a mask when I voted for Medicaid expansion on Tuesday. It's not about the politics for me, it's about the science. I worked in public health for 35 years, 15 at the state m Jeff City, and 20 at the Federal level, and served on many public health task forces with Health and Human Services and the Center for Disease Control. Please read my comments and make intelligent comments, not vindictive statements, I welcome well thought out responses. Have a nice day. I apologize for calling you a moron. That was rude of me.

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