By SARAH THOMACK
St. Joseph Post
After a long discussion during a work session on Zoom, the St. Joseph City Council agreed to put a mask mandate in place for larger businesses.
The order goes into effect today and requires that individuals wear a mask in retail stores of 10,000 square feet or more.
Mayor Bill McMurray says when the meeting started on Thursday, four on the councilmembers wanted a mask mandate and five did not. McMurray then suggested requiring masks in businesses of a certain square footage number.
“I thought, you know, most of the complaints I’ve gotten from people, it was because they were in the grocery store and they saw all kinds of people not wearing masks," McMurray says. "We don’t want to single out grocery stores, but we’d like to pick them up along with the other occupancies where people are just kind of afraid to go in or they’re unhappy or uncomfortable being in there.”
The five councilmembers who originally did not want any mask mandate agreed to what the mayor is calling a compromise. McMurray says feedback on the mask mandate seems to be about 70% in favor and 30% against.
“The compromise position, there are some people who like it and there are some people who don’t, it’s a little early to tell,” McMurray says. “I have noticed there are people who are very strongly in one position, one extreme or the other. Wow, this is a tough one.”
McMurray says, while he could have made an emergency order mandating masks, he wanted the support of the council.
“I’d rather have collaboration and consensus, cooperation, support from the council,” McMurray says. “If you want to look at it from a practical standpoint, I could order anything I wanted on an emergency basis and the council could overturn the order by a majority vote. So just thinking purely in terms of numbers, I wanted to make sure the majority of the council supported this. I don’t want to just… issue an order and then at a subsequent council meeting or two have the council negate that order, so I wanted to be sure we were all on the same page.”
The order is in place for 60 days, but the council will continue their weekly work sessions to reevaluate.
"What I'd like to see is getting rid of this virus and returning to normal," McMurray says. "I don't like making requirements that people have to wear masks, but the medical doctors all said this is what you should do. I don't want to abridge anyone's freedoms, especially in this country that's built on freedom, but during an emergency and a pandemic, we have to do something to curtail the spread of this."
Visit the City of St. Joseph's website for more information on the order.