Fulton will receive help from an expert while drafting a potential mask ordinance.
Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services Director Dr. Randall Williams will make a virtual stop Wednesday in Fulton to advise city officials on the matter.
"He's going to try to give us some information, and we're going to do some brainstorming about options," Fulton Mayor Lowe Cannell said.
During the July 28 City Council meeting, council members asked Fulton's administration to begin drafting a mask ordinance — just in case it becomes necessary.
"If numbers go up quickly when school starts, how long will it take us to pass something that will require masks?" Ward 2 council member Mary Rehklau asked.
On Tuesday, with the Callaway County Health Department reporting more than twice as many active cases than on July 28, the council heard an update on the process.
"We haven't had a discussion anywhere about what that threshold is, and I don't have a clue what that number should be to move forward and enact an ordinance, but I certainly think we should have a plan in place if we get to that point," Ward 3 councilman John Braun said after drawing attention to the rising numbers.
No decision about a potential threshold to enact a mask ordinance was made Tuesday, but the city has made progress on the ordinance.
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Director of Administration Bill Johnson said after some research, he and City Clerk Courtney Crowson are eyeing three mask ordinances as potential models.
"It's three that are on the (Missouri Municipal League) website," Johnson said. "Springfield, which is about a 10- or 11-page-long document, but it works off of the 'we want to educate and inform first' and it's very detailed. Then we have Columbia's, which is five to six pages long, with details on restaurants athletic events, that type of thing. Then we have the St. Louis County Health Department's, which is a page, and it says, 'You've got to wear a mask.'"
He said as he and Crowson craft the ordinance, they will need input from the City Council about the level of detail they want.
Cannell said Williams will help Fulton craft its own, custom-tailored ordinance.
"But don't expect us to come out of that meeting with an ordinance," he cautioned. "We're trying to wrap our minds around what direction we want to go."
Any ordinance drafted will have to be voted upon by City Council members before it can be put in place. And, as Ward 2's Jeff Stone pointed out, the city will have to figure out how to enforce the ordinance — the CCHD and Fulton Police Department have said they don't have resources to do so.
Though Fulton, the county and other area municipalities have issued a joint recommendation for residents to wear masks in public, neither the county nor any of the cities within it have so far passed an ordinance requiring public masking.
Callaway County Health Department Director Sharon Lynch maintains it's not her department's role to enact a mask ordinance, though at least four other Missouri counties have done so.
"I think each community is different," Lynch said Wednesday. "I think it's better for each community to work on it, instead of one entity (putting one in place)."
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Also during Tuesday's City Council meeting, Braun raised the concern that even as Fulton tries to shape its defense against COVID-19, officials don't have all the information they need.
"The kids coming back to school at Westminster (College) and William Woods (University), and all the people coming in for the outage (at the Callaway Energy Center), those people, a lot of them don't live in our city and state," he said. "How does our county plan on tracking those? As I understand it, their tracking information will go back to the county from where their driver's license is."
Johnson said because the students are here for an extended period of time, they will likely be counted as living in Callaway County if they test positive.
"But I'm pretty confident that the workers in the outage, they're going to go back to their home county," he said. "Our Health Department, they'll probably never know."
As Ward 1's Ballard Simmons pointed out, even if the CCHD knows where the cases are, the city of Fulton does not.
"You said 51 (active cases)? Where are they? We don't know that," Simmons said. "The Health Department should know that, but should Fulton be going alone to enact an ordinance to wear masks when we really don't know where all these active cases are? There might be a lot in the city limits of Fulton, but shouldn't Fulton have some help from the county? It seems like we're going this alone, and it doesn't seem right."
Asked about the CCHD's decision not to make a city-by-city breakdown of cases available (the county has done so only once), Lynch said it's a Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act issue.
"Say you have one person identified in Auxvasse," CCHD registered nurse Stephanie Woods said.
If you, an Auxvasse resident, had one friend who was sick and knew there was one case in the city, it would be easy to connect the dots, she said.