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Branson moves up date to drop mask mandate

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The city of Branson moved up its face mask mandate removal date by more than a month.

The order now is scheduled to end at 12:01 a.m. April 16, according to a news release. The Branson Board of Aldermen approved the change 6-0 at its meeting yesterday.

The decision came less than a month after aldermen voted to remove the mandate on May 24, according to past reporting. The board previously mandated that face masks must be worn in public to protect against the coronavirus starting July 31, 2020. It was then extended on Sept. 8 and Oct. 13 last year.

The removal of the mandate fills a key campaign pledge by newly elected Mayor Larry Milton.

"Please do not persecute or attack businesses and individuals who choose to continue requiring masks in their establishments or wear masks themselves," Milton said on his campaign's Facebook page after the board vote yesterday. "This vote was never about forcing individuals to stop wearing masks, it was about getting government out of it. These decisions should be left up to the individual citizens and businesses."

Milton sponsored the latest ordinance to remove Branson's mask requirement. He cited Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data showing a decrease in weekly COVID-19 cases and a figure stating that as of April 8, 19.7% of Taney County residents had initiated the vaccination process, according to the release.

In the nearby city of Nixa, Mayor Brian Steele earlier this month announced the community's mask mandate would be removed at the end of April.

In Springfield, City Council members voted to end the city's masking order when thresholds of less than 20 new cases per day, under 20 hospitalizations in COVID-19 isolation and a vaccination rate of 50% of the eligible population are met.

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