The Jefferson City Council extended two out of the three current COVID-19 emergency declarations and proclamations for Jefferson City through June 7.
The extended emergency guidelines allow businesses to place signs regarding any modified business operations, such as carry-out only, where customers can see it and the option for virtual participation in public meetings.
An extension to a mask requirement at any in-person city meetings was originally planned for the extension; however councilman Mike Lester, Ward 3, suggested the council remove it.
"I've been at a number of meetings recently and hardly anybody was wearing masks," he said prior to the meeting. "It doesn't seem like it's being enforced even though we have it."
Councilman Rob Fitzwater, Ward 4, argued in favor of not extending any of the emergency declarations.
"I'd like to see the whole resolution just disappear," he said. "I think we have reached the useful life of these three pieces of the resolution. I think the community has been cooperative or watching cities around us do the same thing across the state. I think it's time just to let the entire issue go. There are provisions within this resolution that we're not holding people accountable for, so I think we just need to let them expire the bill."
However, one of the concerns Mayor Carrie Tergin brought up with that is the virtual Committee on Administration meeting planned for Wednesday.
Councilwoman Erin Wiseman, Ward 3, who is also the chair for that committee, said she'd like to see the virtual meeting allowance continue because she wants to discuss it with the committee before the option is removed.
"I think it's an important asset for the city especially because we have some committees that just haven't been able to meet regularly until the virtual option was available," she said. "I think we've had more participation in some of those meetings and I think that virtual option is a really good option, that I think we need to talk about it in admin before we move forward, and I think we can discuss it before the next meeting."
Fitzwater said to her point that if the virtual option was required for some committees to meet regularly, it raises a different issue.
"I know why we had to do it through the pandemic, but I hope we don't have to do that moving forward to have participation on our committees," he said.
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The change passed 9-1 with Fitzwater as the one vote against. He was also the one vote against removing the mask requirement for in-person meetings.
Tergin said she anticipates allowing the orders to expire next month if the area's COVID-19 cases and vaccinations continue on the trend they have.
Council members asked for guidance from Cole County Health Department Director Kristi Campbell.
"I think we said all along it was a recommendation not a mandate," she said. "If spacing can be maintained and if people feel comfortable not wearing a mask that we wouldn't object to that change in your advisory or your proclamation."
The decision comes as Boone County and Columbia decided to let health orders expire May 12, according to the Columbia Missourian. Those orders include social distancing in bars, restaurants, entertainment venues and other businesses as well as enforced mask-wearing in public. Masks and social distancing will be required in city buildings, and private businesses and schools may choose to continue to enforce masks.
Council members plan to revisit the precautions at its first June meeting.
In other business Monday, the council:
- Authorized an agreement with the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission for the city to be reimbursed for up to 50 percent of expenses operating the air traffic control tower at Jefferson City Memorial Airport from Nov. 1, 2020, to Oct. 21, 2021.
- Moved an $938,000 supplemental appropriation from the parking fund to purchase property in the 100 block of West McCarty Street onto the informal agenda to be addressed at a later meeting. The council has a work session scheduled for 5:30 p.m. May 24 for discussion on the project.