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City Beat: Council approves removal of COVID-19 mandate  

The city’s current regulations, including mandatory masking, expire on May 27

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Springfield City Council on May 17 voted to remove the city’s COVID-19 ordinance in full, effective May 27.  

On that day, mandated mask wearing, remaining occupancy restrictions and rules on mass gatherings will be removed completely, moving Springfield into the green phase on the Road to Recovery initiative.  

Katie Towns, acting director of the Springfield-Greene County Health Department, presented the ordinance removal to council May 13, the same day the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced new guidance removing face mask and social distancing recommendations for fully vaccinated individuals. 

Towns said the department supports the removal of the ordinance, despite Springfield having yet to reach the thresholds outlined for the green phase – under 20 new cases per day, under 20 hospitalizations and a 50% vaccination rate.  

As of May 20, Springfield’s daily case rate was 18, there were 35 hospitalizations and 36% of the population was fully vaccinated.

Towns said increasing the vaccination rate remains critical. As of May 27, most Missourians will have been eligible for the vaccine for seven weeks.  

“We need to spend these next two weeks working hard to improve our vaccination rates while we wrap up school, and continue to mask to protect our children,” Towns said. “Indoor gatherings with low vaccination rates still create risk for disease spread.”  

The May 27 date was chosen in line with the end of the current school year to continue protecting children, most of whom are unable to be vaccinated.   

Towns said having the ordinance in place has protected area health care systems from being overwhelmed and guarded the community’s most vulnerable residents.   

The vote on May 17 also immediately amended the ordinance to remove requirements of wearing face coverings in outdoor spaces. At its last meeting, council adjusted the ordinance to allow face coverings to be removed in some outdoor public spaces.  

Towns said CDC studies of COVID-19 have continued to show transmission in outdoor spaces is limited.  

Council approved the emergency bill in an 8-0 vote, with Councilmember Richard Ollis absent.  

Renew Jordan Creek
As part of the effort to daylight Jordan Creek, council is considering the purchases of two pieces of property in two separate bills.

At its June 1 meeting, council will vote on the purchases of 237 W. Mill St. and 353 N. Campbell Ave. as part of Renew Jordan Creek, Phase I.

The ongoing first phase is part of a larger effort to daylight Jordan Creek and reduce flooding, improve water quality and create an urban amenity, City Principal Engineer Chris Dunnaway said.

Phase I of the project comprises two sections of the creek, bordered on the east by Boonville Avenue, on the south by Water Street and on the north by Main Avenue. Funding comes from Springfield’s level property tax and estimated costs are $7 million, according to past Springfield Business Journal reporting.

The properties under consideration are currently owned by Missouri State University, Dunnaway said. They sit across Mill Street from each other at the intersection with Campbell Avenue, near MSU’s Brick City, and serve as parking lots for students.

Per the purchase agreement with the city, MSU will continue to utilize the parking lots until construction of the Jordan Creek project begins, which is currently anticipated for late summer 2022, Dunnaway said.

“MSU has been planning for this and has already begun design on a replacement parking lot to meet their needs,” Dunnaway said.

The land value for the Mill property is $580,000 and the Campbell property is $291,500, city officials said. Per a 2017 memorandum of understanding between the city and the MSU Board of Governors, the city also will reimburse MSU for the loss of the parking lots, at a cost of roughly $120,000, Dunnaway said.

Jordan Creek currently runs underground just south of the two properties, near Water Street. Once the improvements are made, the space will become a combination of public green space and plaza areas, he said.

Dunnaway said the current phase of planning and public engagement is close to ending, with a presentation to council scheduled for its June 1 meeting. More details on the Renew Jordan Creek plan will be made public at that time, officials said, followed by a week of public comment.

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