A look at why Joplin passed a mask ordinance two weeks after voting one down

Joplin Chamber creates signs for businesses

JOPLIN, Mo. – “We’re seeing an increase in cases in our area, an increase in hospitalizations, an increase in our deaths,” says Joplin Mayor Ryan Stanley.

Joplin Mayor Ryan Stanley says there were a number of factors that changed between their meeting on Wednesday (07/08), and when they first voted on a mask ordinance on June 24th.

One of them being an increase in the number of cases, hospitalizations, and deaths. On June 24th, there were 100 confirmed cases in the city, with 59 of them being active. There were also two Joplin residents hospitalized at the time, with zero deaths. In contrast, on July 8th, there had been 247 confirmed cases, a 147 percent increase in two weeks, with 80 of them being active. There are also 10 Joplin residents currently hospitalized, and 13 deaths.

“Freeman has been diverting to Cox, to kind of push into Cox’s availability. So that’s one of the biggest things,” says Stanley. “We were getting strong requests from the hospitals to move forward with this. On top of that, our health department, who we really trust, came with a recommendation to approve it. And then on top of that, we have a different ordinance. An ordinance that seems to be a little bit more accommodating to Joplin and where we are in this climate.”

Some of the biggest concerns with the ordinance that the city council expressed during their meeting on June 24th included the heavy $250 fine, the fact that it didn’t have an end date, and the difficulty the police department would have enforcing the ordinance. So with the new ordinance, the maximum possible fine is lower, at $50, the ordinance ends on August 17th, and there is a bigger focus on encouragement and education, as opposed to punitive enforcement.

All businesses that the public has access to will have to post signs saying that customers are required to wear masks. But business owners will not be penalized if they don’t make customers who aren’t wearing masks leave.

“[It’s} to try to create a strong encouragement expectation, but not necessarily to ask the businesses to police it as well,” says Stanley.

Since businesses will have to have signs by the time the ordinance goes into effect this Saturday, July 11th, the Joplin Chamber of Commerce is offering free signs to all business owners that can be downloaded from the chamber’s website. President Toby Teeter says they designed the signs on Wednesday so they would have something ready if the ordinance was approved.

“In anticipation of our membership, you know, 800, 900 businesses seeking signs at 8:am the next day, we went ahead and made PDF’s. So, whether you’re a chamber member or not, we’re eager to serve our business community,” says Teeter.

Mask Ordinance Sign, Option 1

One of three sign designs the Joplin Chamber of Commerce has created for Joplin businesses.

The city is also getting ready to distribute 50 thousand cloth face masks to residents next week. Stanley says they don’t know all of the details yet, but the first phase of distribution will likely take place in the Memorial Hall parking lot.

He says the entire goal of the ordinance is the same one that health experts have been echoing for weeks and months. To slow the spread of COVID-19, so that the local hospital systems don’t get even more overrun than they already are.

“I think the most powerful thing this ordinance could bring about is a regional buy-in from our partners in other cities and in the county to partner with Joplin to help fight this,” says Stanley. “This is not a Joplin problem. This is not a Jasper County problem. This is all of us together, partnering together because we’re all sharing people within our cities. And so I really think that his ordinance would be the most impactful if we could get Carthage, and Webb City, and Carl Junction, and Neosho, Jasper County, and Newton County to partner with us to help beat this virus.”

You can read the full ordinance here: http://joplinmo.org/AgendaCenter/ViewFile/Agenda/_07082020-2163