Matt Johnson council

Councilman Matt Johnson looks over proposed ordinances at the March 22 City Council meeting. Johnson motioned to end the city's face covering ordinance Monday, a measure that passed in a 4-1 vote.

Maryville’s City Council voted 4-1 to terminate the city’s face covering mandate as of 12 a.m. March 23 — effectively ending the ordinance more than a month earlier than its initially set expiration date. 

Immediately after the pledge of allegiance, Councilman Matt Johnson motioned to end the mandate Monday, citing progress he observed in the county. Rachael Martin was the “second” and a five minute discussion followed. 

“These types of orders are designed to be temporary, and I think we’ve hit the mark of the utility of the mask mandate,” Johnson said. “I don’t regret for a moment the amount of time we had the mask mandate in place; it was absolutely necessary. But I think that time has passed.” 

Just two weeks ago, at the March 8 City Council meeting, Councilman Jason McDowell motioned to end the face covering mandate early. At that meeting, his motion went unanswered. 

After hearing Johnson’s motion and his initial comments, each council member responded with a reflection on the past year, recounting what the measure curated for the city — the perceived positives and negatives of the ordinance.

Martin spoke over loud music and chatter that seeped through closed doors in a large community center room, which became the council’s official meeting place since last December. Her largest message was a “thank you” to the community for complying with the measure throughout the past year.

Martin said there have been more challenges that could have gone unrecognized by the Council and that she wanted to acknowledge what everyone has been through in the past year, when COVID-19’s effects trickled down from a global scale and infiltrated the local community.

“I think we all know what the right things to do are, now,” Martin said. “I still recommend wearing a mask, but I do agree that at this time the education piece is there and we can move forward without the mandate.”

Hearing the first two council members, Tye Parsons said he wanted to echo Martin and thank the community. He said he is proud of Maryville citizens for doing their part to protect public health. Even so, Parsons said he did not support the termination of the mandate, and went on to be the single “no” toward Johnson’s motion. 

Parsons said that since July he has based all decisions regarding the mandate on local, regional and federal healthcare officials’ opinion and guidance. Since those entities, as of March 22, still urge the use of masks, Parsons voted against the motion.

Parsons said he wanted to wait to terminate the measure until a larger percentage of locals received the COVID-19 vaccine. 

“I can’t support the motion tonight, but I certainly understand it, and I understand the burden that’s been placed on all of us in the community,” Parsons said.

From the back of the room someone said, faintly, “Thank you.”

Councilman Jason McDowell reflected a similar message of his peers on the council, one of gratitude and reflecting on difference of opinion. 

“I appreciate the community and the support and also the differing opinions. I think we’ve had a lot of good conversations on a lot of different area,” McDowell said.  “We went into this, it seems like so long ago … there’s been times we’ve had differing opinions and that’s the nature of this whole time. I just want to echo the support of my fellow council members.”

Mayor Ben Lipiec recounted decisions that "weighed on" the council and also thanked the community for their support in those situations.

The ordinance went into effect July 22, then was extended three times, citing guidance from healthcare, state and national officials. On March 22, when the city decided to lift the ordinance, there were 15 active cases of COVID-19. The 14 day change was 1.46% and the seven day rolling average sat at one.

Northwest sent an email to all students shortly after the Council decided to lift the face covering ordinance. The email detailed COVID-19 mitigation strategies still in affect at the University, including a requirement of face masks.

Like the University, some local businesses and organizations may still require masks under company policy.

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