The mask mandate in Parsons will continue at least well into May.
The Parsons City Commission approved on a 4-0 vote to extend by resolution an ordinance that requires masks to be worn in public places. Commissioner Jeff Perez didn’t attend the Thursday work session, but he introduced the idea of a mask ordinance and has supported past extensions.
The mask ordinance that was approved on July 6 mandates people to wear masks in buildings accessible to the public. The ordinance also requires businesses and organizations to post a notice at their entrances that masks must be worn inside. Employers also must make their workers wear masks when they are in areas accessible to the public or when they can’t socially distance from each other. First offenders can be warned. Following the warning, violators can be fined $50, but that can be waived by paying a $15 administrative fee. Upon the third violation, offenders can be fined $50 and must pay $90 in court costs.
The original ordinance expired on Oct. 1. The commission approved another ordinance to extend the mandate to Dec. 7. That ordinance also allowed the commissioners to extend the mandate by resolution. On Dec. 7, the commission extended the mandate to March 1.
The commission had planned to extend the ordinance in its Feb. 15 meeting, but that meeting was canceled because of bad weather. The commission will have a regular meeting on Monday, but instead of waiting for the final day, the commission took action during the work session.
The commissioners approved the resolution with no hesitation, so the mandate is now set to expire on May 17. Commissioners have indicated they will consider another extension before then.
Commissioner Kevin Cruse said even though people have mask fatigue by now, he thinks the mask ordinance is paying off, with the local spread of coronavirus dropping.
“I think we’re doing really well. Our rates are going way down,” Cruse said.
Mayor Tom Shaw said with the publicity over the last several months, most people probably would wear masks with or without a law to protect themselves and others, but because there is a law in place, it might as well be extended.
Later in Thursday’s meeting, Police Chief Robert Spinks said business inspections continue. Police officers have responded to complaints about people not wearing masks in Walmart a few times. At times, there was fairly good compliance there, Spinks said, and other times there were an inordinate amount of people without masks. He said police have “helped them help themselves.”
The past few days, officers have visited Walmart, Walgreens and King Cash Saver as areas with the potential for the most traffic flow and issued $5 awards instead of warnings or citations. Officers gave the money to 20 people who were compliant with the mask requirement.
“In one case an elderly lady was so taken by that that she literally threw herself at one of my officers and was hugging her and was so appreciative that we were actually enforcing the mask ordinance,” Spinks said.
Police inspections and outreach will continue.