Despite surges of COVID-19 cases in specific regions, 52 percent of counties in Missouri have 30 or less reported cases.
There are currently 28 counties in Missouri with less than 10 cases of COVID-19 and 31 counties with 30 cases or less.
The disparity in cases has Gov. Mike Parson leaving it to county and city leaders to make the decision on mandating masks based on individual case numbers in their areas.
On July 1, as cases spiked in St. Louis City and County, leaders there mandated the wearing of masks particularly in settings where people are close to each other or where social distancing is difficult to maintain.
The cities of Joplin and Columbia announced this week that masks will be required in those municipalities.
Franklin County Second District Commissioner Dave Hinson said the county has not changed its stance on mandating masks since the surge in cases this week is from a back-up of labs due to the holiday weekend and dump reporting.
Hinson said the county is not requiring restaurants or business employees to wear masks, but many are making the decision themselves and most are following national franchise guidelines.
Neighboring St. Charles County had 105 new cases Thursday, and while County Executive Steve Ehlmann is not mandating masks, he is pleading with residents to wear them voluntarily.
Washington Mayor Sandy Lucy said she is not ready to see masks mandated in Washington, and the issue has not been brought up in city discussions. “This is a critical time, and we really need to pay attention,” she said. “On a personal note, I am being more cautious and wearing a mask more often.”
Lucy said masks are not currently required at city hall, but anyone who visits the library is required to don face coverings.
“We are practicing social distancing at city hall,” Lucy said. “I do find the increase in numbers unsettling. We had 17 new cases today (Thursday). We could have 17 tomorrow; they just keep adding up. What will it be in a week?”
City leaders in Columbia announced this week that private citizens caught not wearing a mask in public would be fined $15 and business owners could face fines from $50 and up for not obeying the mask mandate.
“I think there are a lot more important things for the (Washington) police to be doing,” Lucy said. “We don’t have our own health department so we will continue to follow the county guidelines.”
Meanwhile, Missouri Senate president pro tem State Sen. Dave Schatz, R-Sullivan, and State Rep. Aaron Griesheimer, R-Washington, said a statewide mandate is highly unlikely.
“You have some areas like Warsaw, Mo., that have zero cases,” Schatz said. “There are a few hotspots, but it doesn’t make any sense to make people all over the state wear a mask.”
“More than likely, the governor is not interested in a statewide order,” Schatz said.
Griesheimer said nothing regarding mask mandates has been discussed within his party caucus or with the General Assembly as a whole. “I don’t see anything coming from the state,” Griesheimer said. “We are seeing pockets in the Joplin and Cape Girardeau areas, but we’re not really seeing a flare-up here like in St. Louis.”