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News covering policy and issues related to city and county governments in the Ozarks.

Face Masks No Longer Required In Most Outdoor Settings In Springfield

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Springfield City Council voted unanimously Monday night to amend city ordinance to remove requirements to wear face masks outdoors except for gatherings of more than 500 where people are less than six feet from one another. 

The decision comes after the CDC last week announced new guidelines that said it’s safe to unmask outdoors if you’re vaccinated.  The agency also declared it was safe for unvaccinated people to participate in outdoor, unmasked activities with members of one’s household or other fully vaccinated people. 

But the pace of COVID-19 vaccinations has slowed in Greene County.  The Springfield-Greene County Health Department recommended the amendment to Springfield city ordinance based on CDC guidance.  But acting director of the health department, Katie Towns, told council members she’s concerned about the number of people who are choosing not to get the COVID-19 shot.  She calls it “an uphill battle.”

"Unfortunately, demand for the vaccine continues to decline and the pace of daily vaccinations is slowing down," said Towns.

The City of Springfield had set a goal of having 50 percent of Greene County residents 16 and older vaccinated by the end of May.  Towns said, at the current pace, that goal won't be reached until June or July.

Before April 9, Towns said, an average of 932 Greene County residents received a COVID-19 vaccine daily.  From April 9 to May 3, that average had dropped to 526 on an average day.

"Without enough of our community willing to get vaccinated, we will have to start preparing for this to be a part of our everday lives--the threat of exposures, illnesses and even deaths," Towns said.

COVID-19 cases are up in Greene County, according to Towns.  There are now 32 cases per day on a seven-day rolling average compared to 18 at the same time last week.  On Friday, the county had 75 new positive COVID-19 cases—the most in a single day since February 23.

Towns contributes the jump, in part, to COVID-19 variants.  She said three more cases of the UK variant, B117, have been confirmed, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to five.  But she said there are likely many more.

"We need to act as if it's widespread in our community," said Towns.

The health department encourages people who aren’t vaccinated to continue wearing masks outdoors if they’re around other people, according to Towns.

Face masks are still required in Springfield in indoor public settings.

Michele Skalicky has worked at KSMU since the station occupied the old white house at National and Grand. She enjoys working on both the announcing side and in news and has been the recipient of statewide and national awards for news reporting. She likes to tell stories that make a difference. Michele enjoys outdoor activities, including hiking, camping and leisurely kayaking.