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Posted on: July 7, 2020

COVID-19’s impact on public health capabilities leads to masking ordinance consideration


Springfield City Council is considering an ordinance with a provision requiring the wearing of face coverings in public places as part of a proposed Phase 4 of the Road to Recovery Order. The current phase is in place until July 15.

Springfield-Greene County Health Department (SGCHD) Assistant Director Katie Towns reported a record 35 new cases of COVID-19 in Greene County residents in the prior 24 hours. The 52 confirmed cases from Friday to Monday added 111 people to those SGCHD are monitoring as close contacts on quarantine. Staff are actively monitoring 395 people on quarantine today. Thus far today the department has received eight new cases reports this morning. That number will undoubtedly grow, Towns said.

Staff are continuing to investigate the circumstances around the new 35 cases to determine the full picture, but what they know now is that activities of confirmed cases can be separated into two groups: those traveling to high-risk areas and community-spread cases.

Hospitalizations are also increasing. Twenty-eight people are currently hospitalized at Greene County hospitals from COVID-19. This time last month, there were eight hospitalizations. In recent weeks, hospitals have averaged about three COVID-19 patients in their Intensive Care Units per  day, although that number fluctuates. The hospitals currently have six COVID-19 patients in their ICUs.

At CoxHealth, President/CEO Steve Edwards reports experiencing a 43% growth in total positive lab results last week. The health system has also seen the percentage of positive rates increase from about 0.5% a month or so ago to 11.85% as of today.

“Combined with high prevalence in our surrounding catchment area, rapidly growing prevalence in Greene County, and strained regional hospitals, we believe we are at our triggering point,” Edwards said. “Most of our indicators have increased by nearly 50% in the past two weeks. We have gone from four inpatients to 17 in the past week.”

Similar to Cox, Mercy monitors several key metrics on a daily basis to ensure continuous readiness as a health system. They also monitor hospitals across the Mercy ministry as each community has been impacted differently based on a number of different factors.

“We feel strongly that the proactive steps that the City and County leaders have taken to protect our community have been a key driver in the lower COVID case rates that we have experienced,” said Brent Hubbard, President & COO, Mercy Hospital Springfield Communities. “However, we are in the throws of a steep increase in our 14-day case rate per 100,000, which was 0.5 14 days ago and as of yesterday we are at 3.5.”

Moving quickly on the masking ordinance is critical, Hubbard continued. “To give you an idea of how quickly the disease can spread, our Northwest Arkansas hospital experienced a 14 day case rate per 100,000 jump from 0 to 42. Although prepared, the influx of inpatients to all three health systems in that area created a significant strain. If we have the opportunity to prevent the same situation here then we should act immediately. If we don’t, we may be forced to reinstate more drastic measures, such as the restrictions we had in place April and May.”

After reviewing  the science, health officials say there is increasingly growing evidence that suggests that transmission of this illness can be significantly decreased by masking.

“As a department, we see the value of masking in keeping those around us safe. We have literally seen, as a result of The Great Clips exposure, the prevention power of masking,” Towns said. “It’s not comfortable. It’s a new habit to form. It’s not our only prevention tool. It’s not perfect. But we are of the opinion that we should be using every tool we have to combat this virus to prevent us from going backwards like other cities across the country are,” Towns continued.

City Council was provided a memo and white paper containing additional local and regional COVID-19 data that also outlines the evidence behind masking and policy considerations to inform decisions going forward.

The draft ordinance with proposed updates to the City’s Road to Recovery Phase 4 plan, including requiring the wearing of face coverings is expected to be available later today. An expected vote will take place Monday, July 13.

The reasons for considering masking mandates are for more than public health, according to local officials.  New U.S. coronavirus cases have risen sharply in recent weeks, leading to concerns that backsliding into stricter orders restricting commerce would again depress economic activity.

Since the first infection wave in March and April, it has become clear, according to recent research from Goldman Sachs, that broad stay-at-home orders are not the only way to lower virus transmission, and that many local governments have started to require the wearing of face masks in public settings for economic, as well as public health reasons.

Goldman Sachs’ research published June 29, concluded:

  • Face masks are associated with significantly better coronavirus outcomes and cut the daily growth rate of confirmed cases. 
  •  Since this is true across all three of the research models and the results are robust to the inclusion of a number of control variables, it seems to reflect a largely causal impact of masks rather than correlation with other factors (such as reduced mobility or avoidance of large gatherings).

The City departments of Public Information & Civic Engagement and City Clerk’s Office have provided additional ways for citizens to learn more about masking and to voice their opinions on the proposed Road to Recovery Phase 4 order.

To voice your opinion on the draft Phase 4 of the Road to Recovery Order that may include a mandatory masking component, call the City Clerk’s Office at 417-874-2460; submit written comments electronically to be reflected in the City Council meeting minutes; or sign up to speak at the City Council meeting on Monday, July 13 (deadline is 5 p.m. Friday, July 10).

Coronavirus Information Line: 417-874-1211

• For general coronavirus questions to be connected to the State of Missouri Coronaivirus Hotline, press 1.
• To speak to someone from the Springfield-Greene County Health Department about COVID testing, symptoms, exposures or prevention, press 2.
• If you are a business owner or manager with questions about the current or proposed Road to Recovery Order Phase 4 that includes a mandatory masking component, press 3.
• If you are a citizen with questions or concerns about the current or proposed Road to Recovery Order Phase 4 that includes a mandatory masking component, press 4 to speak with someone in our citizen resource center.
• To leave a voicemail to be provided to City Council, press 5.

City Clerk’s Office Feedback Line: 417-874-2460

• To leave a voicemail for City Council to express support of a mandatory masking component for the Road to Recovery Phase 4 , press 1.
• To leave a voicemail to express opposition to a mandatory masking component for the Road to Recovery Phase 4, press 2.
• To sign up to speak at the July 13 City Council meeting, press 3.
• To reach the general Coronavirus Information Hotline, press 4.

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For more information, contact Cora Scott at 417-380-3352 or [email protected].

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