(ST. JOSEPH, Mo) St. Joseph City Council members voted in favor of extending the city's mask ordinance during their city council meeting on Tuesday.
An emergency order to enact a face mask mandate for retail spaces of 10,000 square feet went into effect in July in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19. It was set to expire Friday.
Tuesday night's vote was 5-3 in favor of extending the order as a city ordinance, which means it will be in effect indefinitely until the council votes again to change it. Council members P.J. Kovac, Marty Novak and Gary Roach were in the minority to vote down the proposal.
"The order that says 'masks must be worn at any retail occupancies of 10,000 square feet or more, will be actually an ordinance now, rather than an emergency order. And this recognizes the long term effect of this virus that's not going away anytime soon," said Mayor Bill McMurray.
The council was more hesitant about expanding the order. A vote to place a separate ordinance on the agenda for a first reading would have included all St. Joseph businesses that could not provide for social distancing. That failed on a 4-4 vote. Council member Spanky O'Dell joined Kovac, Novak and Roach against the mandate.
O'Dell cited the language in the proposed ordinance for his vote, which he said would confuse the public.
A well-attended city council meeting Monday night included mostly people who were against the mandate. Mayor McMurray said he understands how divisive the issue is.
"A lot of people feel we need a broader mask mandate. Then there are people, like the majority of people here tonight, who said we do not want a broader mask mandate. What I'm trying to do is to balance the competing interests," he said.