The Branson Board of Aldermen have passed an ordinance mandating face coverings in the city.
This ordinance will go into effect at 12:01 a.m. July 31 and will expire at 11:59 p.m. Sept. 8.
The ordinance has the following components:
–Requires individuals to wear face coverings while in indoor and outdoor public spaces unless they are engaged in certain activities or under the age of 13.
–Requires operators of public places to ensure guests use face coverings.
–Requires signage at all businesses outlining requirements on social distancing and face coverings.
–Penalty for violating is a $100 fine and potential revocation of business license and other permits.
According to a press release issued by the city of Branson shortly after the meeting, education will be the first step in enforcement. Branson Police will work to educate any violators of the ordinance before pursuing further action. Just like all city ordinances, violations of the ordinance can be reported by calling 911.
A “face covering” is “a particulate mask or fabric covering of the nose and mouth secured to the face with ties, loops or elastic that is covering the nose and mouth.”
Four aldermen voted ‘yes,’ which led to the passage of the bill.
“We’re in unprecedented times,” said Alderman Bill Skains. “I heard some things today that really concern me and I call them selfish. The first goal of an alderman is the health, welfare and safety of our citizens. It is the No.1 concern. I listen to people who’s in the hospitals and I’m concerned about it. Do we want to educate our children that we don’t want to listen to the educated? This is neither a police state or a yellow star referring to the Jewish.”
Alderman Bob Simmons also spoke for the bill, saying he trusts the professionals in the Branson community.
“It’s a shame to me we can’t trust our government, we can’t trust the World Health Organization (WHO), we can’t trust the CDC and that’s come about with politics over the last few years and that’s a real shame,” said Simmons. “But, going beyond that, that means that I have to drop back to local people that I know, local people that I trust. I was very disappointed at the previous meeting where we have people stand up and call a doctor a liar and shake their fist at him. That’s totally unacceptable.”
Larry Milton was the lone vote against the ordinance.
“I know, for a fact, that a lot of our businesses are really taking this seriously,” said Milton. “To mandate, especially the way this bill’s written, I just can’t see it. After careful and thoughtful consideration of the comments and the facts, I cannot support this bill. I am voting for the will of the people. At our previous meeting the majority were against the bill (and) today a majority are against the bill. So, I will be voting ‘no.’ I reserve the right to change my opinion as new facts are presented.”
Alderman Kevin McConnell, who recently submitted his resignation from the board, effective Aug. 7, was absent from the meeting.
Several members of the public were allowed three minutes each to speak about the ordinance, including Branson entertainer Yakov Smirnoff, who said he opposed the mandate. The comedian said he had recently been in Chicago and couldn’t wait to get back to Branson where there was not a face covering mandate.
“It’s become a police state,” he said. “They are empowering everyone to become enforcers.”
The Russian native then told a story about a boy in Russia who turned his father into the police for hiding food, and the father was executed. He said he hoped the aldermen would reject the mandate and keep Branson “an island of freedom and peace.”
“People who come here say this is the way America used to be,” he added. “I say this is what America ought to be.”
There are several cut-out exceptions in the ordinance. The following are not required to wear a face covering:
–Children under the age of 13
–Any person with a health condition documented by a medical professional that prohibits wearing a face covering
–Any person who is hearing impaired, or someone who is communicating with a person who is hearing impaired, where the ability to see the mouth is essential for communication
–Any person in the water at a swimming pool
–Any person who is obtaining a service involving the head, face or nose for which temporary removal of the face covering is necessary to perform the service
–Any person playing a sport, exercising or using exercise equipment
–Any person who is outdoors while maintaining physical distancing of at least six feet, except as otherwise provided in this Article
–Any person who is outdoors who is closer than six feet to family members or people who they reside with
–Any person performing on a fixed stage
–Any person engaged in public speaking who maintains a minimum physical distance of six feet from others who are not family members or who reside together
–Any public safety officer engaged in an emergency situation
–Any person during a wedding ceremony or while photographs of the wedding and reception are taken
–Any family member of a deceased person during a funeral, interment, or memorial.
According to a city report, Section 79.380, RSMo of Missouri statutes gives the Board of Aldermen the authority to “make regulations and pass ordinances for the prevention of the introduction of contagious diseases in the city, and for the abatement of the same, and may make quarantine laws and enforce the same within five miles of the city.”
The aldermen approved the bill after postponing a decision during a July 16 meeting. A total 39 people came forward at the July 16 meeting to speak during the public comment section which lasted approximately five hours.
Visit bransonmo.gov for the complete ordinance and to learn more about face coverings. This information can be found on the city’s “Coronavirus/COVID-19 Resources and News” tab.