The northwest Missouri city of St. Joseph has issued an emergency order requiring individuals to wear masks or face coverings at all indoor public places. The order began today and will be in place for 30 days.

St. Joseph leaders say spike in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations prompted mask order

St. Joseph Mayor Bill McMurray says the number of COVID-19 patients at Mosaic Life Care is what prompted the expansion of the mask order.

“They’ve gone from like 16 up to 36 and that’s a huge spike, so we have to tamp those numbers back down and this is just a risk management method to do that,” McMurray says. “We’ve built in some exceptions, but we really need people to take this seriously. This virus has had a huge spike here in our community and we have to fight back, we cannot just go on with business as usual, at least for the next 30 days, and hopefully by doing that, we’ll get these numbers back down.”

Health Director Debra Bradley says they are very concerned at the St. Joseph Health Department about the spike in COVID-19 cases and individuals in the hospital.

“We want to do what we can to protect our community as a whole so that’s why we’re supporting this mask mandate, we’ve been asking for it for a while anyway, hopefully this will help turn the corner on the numbers while also keeping our businesses open,” Bradley says. “They’re not the most comfortable thing to wear, but we’re in this together, we’re here to help each other out.”

The mask mandate put in place July 13 in St. Joseph required individuals to wear a mask in retail stores of 10,000 square feet or more. The new emergency declaration requires masks be worn in all indoor public places if a six-foot distance cannot be maintained. Exceptions include children under the age of five, those with certain medical conditions or while eating food at a restaurant or bar.

Deputy Mayor Kent O’Dell says, in recent meetings, he was on the side of not issuing a more expanded measure.

“We’ve tried holding back the city mandates for five, six weeks now and I’ve been a big part of that, but the numbers have gotten out of hand so therefore, the time has come,” O’Dell says. “It’s unfortunate, but it’s time for everybody to show a little compassion, a little consideration for others for a small period.”

During a press conference Tuesday at City Hall, O’Dell said he wanted to apologize to healthcare professionals.

“I never thought that this would happen or it would explode like the way it has,” O’Dell says. “I was planning on acting before these kind of (COVID-19) numbers hit. It’s unfortunate now that nurses and doctors are being hit, overwhelmed with these numbers now. Normal hospital operations and now 36 COVID patients on top of everything else so I want to apologize to those guys for what’s happening.”

Mosaic Life Care in St. Joseph has 48 rooms on the 4th floor and 48 rooms on the 5th floor that are negative pressure rooms available for the treatment of COVID-19 patients, if needed.

By Sarah Thomack of Missourinet affiliate KFEQ in St. Joseph