During the August 17, 2020 meeting and after hearing from about two dozen citizens voicing opinions on the ordinance requiring them to wear masks in public, the Joplin City Council voted to hold to its expiration date of 11:59 p.m. that night. The ordinance was effective July 11, 2020 as a measure to help reduce the spread of coronavirus in the community with an August 17 expiration date unless City Council extended the ruling.
After deciding the mask question, Council voted to move Joplin to Step 4 of Phase 2 in the Response and Recovery Plan, which eliminates any occupancy restrictions for businesses, restaurants, gyms, worship centers and other venues. The plan recommends businesses to offer services remotely when possible. During discussions, Council members noted that citizens should remain cautious and practice social distancing. If not able to social distance, the public was encouraged to wear masks.
Joplin’s Response and Recovery Plan outlines guidelines for categories that have specific interactions with the public. This includes personnel in restaurants and personal services, such as barbers and hair stylists, should wear face masks if within six feet of customers. Specific details on the categories are found in the Exhibits included in the City’s Response and Recovery Plan.
Step 4 of Phase 2 also moves the number allowed for mass gatherings to 250 people, for both indoors and outdoors. The City Council also voted to exempt Joplin Schools from the City’s recovery plans, allowing school administrators to work with the Joplin Health Department and make independent decisions regarding school events and activities.
“City Council appreciates everyone reaching out to us to share their opinions,” said Joplin Mayor Ryan Stanley. “We recognize that our response to COVID-19 continues to be a difficult dilemma to navigate. Regarding our face mask ordinance, we respectfully listened to all points of view, and it was a very close decision. City Council continues to encourage face mask usage when social distancing cannot be maintained. We believe that it is part of the solution, but not the whole solution. Businesses need to feel free to set their own restrictions on their patrons. Years ago, City Council was encouraged to ban smoking in public establishments. We never did, but smoking banned itself as establishments independently disallowed the behavior. That outcome was driven by consumer behavior. We worked through that challenge as a community as we will with our current challenges. The City of Joplin will be ready to continue to respond to this evolving crisis, but in the future, we would prefer to respond as a region in partnership with our surrounding communities. This virus is affecting our entire area; it does not recognize city limit signs.”
Stanley reminds the public that masks are just one of the tools we can all use, noting that washing hands, sanitizing common items, and social distancing are part of keeping ourselves and community safe. For more information about Joplin’s response and recovery of COVID-19, visit joplinmo.org/coronavirus.