On March 22, the Maryville City Council voted to terminate the city’s mask mandate effective midnight the next day. The motion, introduced by Councilman Matt Johnson, passed by an overwhelming 4-1 vote with Councilman Tye Parsons serving as the lone dissenting voice in favor of extending the mitigation effort.
In our estimation, the mask mandate had proven vital to the reduction of COVID-19 cases both within the Maryville community and on Northwest’s campus. By revoking this mask mandate, the Maryville City Council has abdicated its responsibility to protect the health and safety of Northwest’s student population as well as the broader Maryville community.
In support of his motion to rescind the mask mandate, Johnson said, “These types of orders are designed to be temporary, and I think we’ve hit the mark of the utility of the mask mandate.” However, we believe that this argument does not provide adequate support for the dismissal of the municipal ordinance. Instead, the relatively low case count at present should be taken as evidence of the effectiveness of Maryville’s mitigation efforts.
Moreover, while Nodaway County’s (and Northwest’s) COVID-19 cases remain relatively low, the danger has not subsided. According to the New York Times, Nodaway County remains at an “Extremely High Risk Level” for proliferated COVID-19 infections. Additionally, the county’s test positivity rate has increased by 10% over the past two weeks. The science is clear: While the risk of COVID-19 infection has diminished from the pandemic’s height, we are not out of the woods yet.
While some would argue that the rollout of the much anticipated COVID-19 vaccine renders other mitigation efforts, such as compulsory mask-wearing, obsolete, the distribution of the vaccine in northwest Missouri has left much to be desired. While specific numbers for Nodaway County are unavailable, according to the most recent data available through the state’s official website, as of March 9, only 4% of northwest Missouri’s population has received one or both of their vaccine doses. Reporting for the Northwest Missourian, Kendrick Calfee wrote that this was a significant factor in Parsons’ lone dissenting vote.
Following the announcement that the mask mandate would be revoked, Northwest News reported that the University would still require face coverings to be worn on campus despite the withdrawal of support from the city. Many students have conveyed their feelings of disappointment and frustration with this news. Expressing his concerns, freshman Skyler Foster said, “I feel this will encourage some ‘no-mask resistance’ on campus.”
Along these same lines, Hudson-Perrin resident assistant Emily Price says that many of her residents have already begun to come up with “creative excuses” in order to avoid wearing masks in the hall, stating that they have antibodies from a previous COVID-19 infection or claiming that they were just stopping to get a drink from a water bottle.
“As far as I have been made aware, Northwest will continue the mask mandate and in the residence halls,” Price said. She makes sure to remind students who live on campus that not wearing a mask indoors is still a violation of campus policy that can and will lead to disciplinary action.
The recent termination of the Maryville mask mandate is a grievous misstep that puts the health and safety of the area’s population at unnecessarily high risk. With the completion of the vaccine rollout still weeks, if not months, away, and the recent moderate rise in recorded transmission, now is not the time to revoke necessary mitigation ordinances.
In short, the Maryville community needs to finish the hard work it started last year by continuing to engage in important risk management efforts, like widespread mask-wearing, and encouraging these measures through government policy is an important and necessary step in curtailing the spread of COVID-19.