The most divisive action the Maryville City Council has taken since the beginning of the pandemic is no more. The mask mandate was revoked after a 4-1 vote Monday — Tye Parsons was alone in his opposition — and as of midnight that day, there was no city face-covering requirement. It’s sad that this became political, but perhaps getting rid of the mandate will help in one respect: the upcoming elections won’t be bogged down by the mask question.
First, we should be clear. It should come as a surprise to no one who has kept up with the writings of our editorial staff in this last year that we are very pro-mask. Science shows that masks reduce the spread of COVID-19, and areas that have mask ordinances, on average, have fewer cases of the coronavirus per 100,000 citizens, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
We also do not believe that being required to wear a mask is a violation of civil rights, just as seatbelt laws are not either. It’s a common-sense regulation designed to protect everyone, but as is evident by the outcry, the simple act of wearing a piece of cloth to limit the spread of a deadly virus was just too much for some.
The writing has long been on the wall for the end of the mandate. The initial ordinance passed unanimously in July 2020, and since then, the support for the mandate on the Council has fluctuated depending on cases at the moment. It was extended rather easily from November 2020 to January of this year at a time when cases were spiking. However, in the most recent discussion on the issue prior to its revocation on Monday, the Council narrowly declined to extend the mandate in a 3-2 vote March 9.
Many locally see that we are on the downhill side, which is understandable from a certain respect. Every week the amount of vaccinated people in Nodaway County grows, and while there have been some recent spikes in cases, there hasn’t been near the level there was in August or December 2020. This can be further attested to by visiting Walmart or a multitude of other businesses recently as the number of masked individuals seems to decrease each day.
It wouldn’t be the first time, though, that we believed we were out of the woods only to see cases spike again. Although, even if the current Council had declined to end the mandate, it would have limped on for another two weeks before being dismantled anyway.
All four candidates for the two open Council seats in the upcoming April 6 election have stated they would not support re-upping the mandate. Even if all those who voted for it prior to Monday stuck to their positions after the election, the mandate still would not pass. Now, voters can focus on the issues that will affect Maryville long after COVID-19’s hopeful eradication.
Council terms are three years. Even by the most cautious estimates, mask-wearing and COVID-19 will hopefully be long gone from anyone’s mind 2024. While masks were perhaps on the forefront of many voters’ minds, voting on an issue that could not even factor into governing in five to seven months is a recipe for disaster.
We can now look at what candidates believe is the best solution for the water issue. We as voters can evaluate whether or not we believe their plans for downtown most align with what we would like to see happen. The issue of face coverings won’t be the giant elephant in the room that every candidate has to address, or the issue that they try to pander to the voters on.
Yes, it’s ridiculous in the first place that masks became political. It’s ridiculous that some opposed to wearing masks saw it as a “Democratic plot” for control. It’s ridiculous that there was even opposition in the first place and that leaders nationwide wouldn’t listen to medical experts, and even ridiculed those who followed precautions. The pandemic has shown us the absolute depths of dissonance and idiocracy people will go to avoid helping others because it’s a slight inconvenience for them.
This editorial staff believes in science and that masks limit the spread and we are not thrilled that the mandate has ended. We still plan to wear them in public and are still required to wear them on campus.
There is some solace, however, that those opposed to the mandate -- specifically those vehemently so -- will be forced to make decisions in the upcoming election based on something more than a scientific fact twisted into a political issue.