Mask Ordinance Passes in West Plains

City Council Voted 3-2 to Require Face Coverings
The West Plains City Council met for a special session on November 4. After a budget work session for the upcoming fiscal year, the only other item on the agenda was the second reading of Bill 4672. The first reading of the bill took place the preceding Monday. 
In Wednesday’s session, Councilman Josh Cotter moved for a second reading, which was seconded by Councilwoman Jessica Nease. 
After the reading, Mayor Jack Pahlmann intended to allow speakers both for and against the ordinance. However, only citizens opposed appeared in the Council chambers to speak. 
Before the public offered their comments, CEO of Ozarks Medical Center, Tom Keller, was invited to make a statement. Keller gave an overview of the state of COVID treatment at the hospital, with 13 positive patients, and a total of 143 admissions. Keller said OMC, not necessarily the city of West Plains or Howell County, but the hospital itself, is experiencing a positivity rate almost as high as Greene County, reportedly 22%. Keller pointed out that Greene County does offer free testing sites, when Howell County does not, and all COVID-19 tests given OMC are administered by providers at the provider’s discretion. 
“Will you comment, as our premier health care provider, whether you feel that masking is safe and effective?” Councilman Cotter asked Keller at the conclusion of the latter’s presentation. 
Keller resisted to answer directly, commenting only that the hospital has engaged in masking since June.
“It doesn’t do any good to mask if people are still going to get together for parties without masking. Masking is not 100% effective, but it is part of a series of things to do,” Keller continued, “In my personal opinion, [the masking ordinance is] a bigger question than a clinical one.”
Four citizens spoke in opposition of the ordinance, citing reasons ranging from the clear public opposition to the ordinance, to opinions on the effectiveness of masking, to concerns about the ordinance’s effect on the local economy. 
Mayor Pro Tem Mike Topliff offered his thoughts saying, “The thing we haven’t taken into consideration writing this are the people we serve, the citizens. Therefore, I will defend them and be the public servant I was elected to be.”
“The people sitting up here are always doing what they think is best for the people of West Plains. I will continue to support this ordinance,” was the counterpoint offered by Councilman Cotter.
“There are a lot of people stuck at home who are asking us to do this,” said Councilwoman Nease, “Getting our positivity rate down is going to help our community as a whole, for our hospitals, for our local economy, and to keep our schools open.”
With that, comments were concluded. Councilman Cotter and Councilwoman Nease voted for. They were joined by Mayor Pahlmann. Mayor Pro Tem Topliff and Councilman Johnny Murrell voted against. 
The ordinance passed, and became effective immediately.
by Amanda Mendez, publisher

Howell County News

110 W. Main St.,
Willow Springs, MO 65793

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