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The Branson Board of Aldermen yesterday gave its stamp of approval to a face mask mandate after two meetings and roughly 10 hours of public debate and discussions.
The board voted 4-1 in favor of the measure, with Alderman Larry Milton voting against, according to a news release. Alderman Kevin McConnell was absent from the meeting, which was livestreamed on YouTube. McConnell previously announced he would resign, effective Aug. 7, as he moves out of the Ward III area he represents.
The ordinance takes effect July 31 and is scheduled to remain in place through Sept. 8. Violations could result in a $100 fine and potential revocation of a business license and other permits, according to bill documents.
Within city limits, the legislation requires:
• individuals over the age of 12 to wear face coverings in indoor and outdoor public spaces, unless engaged in certain activities, such as swimming;
• operators of public spaces to make sure guests are wearing face coverings; and
• signage to be installed at businesses outlining social distancing and face covering requirements.
The majority of the speakers yesterday opposed the ordinance. It was a similar story earlier this month, when the board postponed the vote after eight hours of comments.
Branson entertainer Yakov Smirnoff, who had made his name, in part, by jokes about Soviet Russia, made comparisons between the United States and Russia in opposing the mandate. He said a masking requirement would make the city similar to a "police state."
"I came to America because of freedom and choice," said Smirnoff, who was born in Ukraine. "I'm hoping that you can make this an island of freedom and choice in the sea of hatred and fear."
Clay Cooper of the Clay Cooper Theatre said his business is down 50%-60% amid the coronavirus pandemic. He said attendance declines would deepen with the mandate.
"I don't even know how we're still open to be honest," he said. "For my family, for my business, for my 95 employees and their families, I'm asking [for] a no vote."
Cox Medical Center Branson President William Mahoney was among those who spoke in favor of the ordinance. He said its passage would make Branson a "beacon on the hill" amid the pandemic.
"Help us to disrupt the trajectory through the simple act of masking. I know we can do this," he said.
Prior to the vote, Alderman Milton made the economic case against the ordinance, saying he’s heard anecdotally that business is down significantly at Silver Dollar City, which is requiring guests to wear masks.
“I believe Silver Dollar City numbers are way down. I believe that if Branson follows the same mask mandate, it’s reasonable to assume Branson will receive the same fate,” he said.
Alderman Bill Skains said “unprecedented times” call for measures such as the masking mandate.
“This is not a liberal or conservative issue,” he said. “You need to be listening to the medical professionals.”
Downtown flower shop Funky Flaura’s Unique Floral Designs LLC opened; Jordan Valley Community Health Center moved in Republic; and The Jackson Grille got its start in Marshfield.
Another example of a power grab by fear mongering politicians. If it such a life saving ordinance why wait until July 31 to enact. This has nothing to do with facts, this is all ego...let's get on the me too train. They want to be recognized like Springfield...and Springfield is KC and St Louis want to be.