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Council approves removal of COVID-19 mandate

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Springfield City Council on Monday voted to remove the city’s COVID-19 ordinance in full, effective May 27.

On that day, mandated mask wearing, remaining occupancy restrictions and rules on mass gatherings will be removed completely, moving Springfield into the green phase on the Road to Recovery initiative.

Katie Towns, acting director of the Springfield-Greene County Health Department, presented the ordinance removal to council May 13, the same day the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced new guidance removing face mask and social distancing recommendations for fully vaccinated individuals.

Towns said the department supports the removal of the ordinance, despite Springfield having yet to reach the thresholds outlined for the green phase – under 20 new cases per day, under 20 hospitalizations and a 50% vaccination rate.

As of Monday morning, Springfield’s daily case rate was 18, there were 36 hospitalizations and 35% of the population was fully vaccinated. Towns said increasing the vaccination rate remains critical. As of May 27, most Missourians will have been eligible for the vaccine for seven weeks.

“We need to spend these next two weeks working hard to improve our vaccination rates while we wrap up school, and continue to mask to protect our children,” Towns said at last night’s meeting. “Indoor gatherings with low vaccination rates still create risk for disease spread.”

The May 27 date was chosen in line with the end of the current school year to continue protecting children, most of whom are unable to be vaccinated.

Towns said having the ordinance in place has protected area health care systems from being overwhelmed and guarded the community’s most vulnerable residents.

The vote on Monday also immediately amended the ordinance to remove requirements of wearing face coverings in outdoor spaces. At its last meeting, council adjusted the ordinance to allow face coverings to be removed in some outdoor public spaces.

Towns said CDC studies of COVID-19 have continued to show transmission in outdoor spaces is limited.

Council approved the emergency bill in an 8-0 vote, with Councilmember Richard Ollis absent.

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