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Boone County Commission Discusses Countywide Mask Mandate

County leaders discussed a countywide mask mandate Monday at the Boone County Commission’s meeting, after reports of hospitals straining under rising numbers of COVID-19 cases.

Boone County Commissioners will consider a short-term renewable mandate around Dec. 1.

"Despite my preference of local municipalities deciding for themselves I have changed my mind on a countywide mandate," said Commissioner Fred Perry. "... despite the county facing political consequences, it would be best for everyone."

The discussion came after an update by Stephanie Browning, Columbia/Boone County Public Health and Human Services director.

Browning said the county's number of active COVID-19 cases increased by 371 this weekend making the total case count 9,452.

The new cases were not on the county dashboard Monday morning, Browning said.

As of Monday early evening, the dashboard showed the number of active COVID-19 cases in Boone County has decreased since last Monday, but hospitalizations continue to climb.

According to the dashboard, Boone County had 930 active cases of COVID-19 cases Monday, down 30.2% from last Monday.

The positivity rate was 26.9% last week, down from an all-time high of 33.5% the previous week, according to the dashboard.

There have been 23 deaths due to COVID-19 in the county, and five of those deaths were reported last week, according to previous Missourian reporting.

There are 1,130 people currently in quarantine in Boone County and 8,558 people have been removed from isolation in total, the dashboard showed Monday. Browning also discussed the record number of hospitalizations and the “strain hospitals are feeling.,” during the commission meeting.

On Monday, MU Health had 61 COVID-19 inpatients. Last week, the hospital announced that it would restrict visitors in outpatient clinics with some exceptions.

Truman Veterans' Hospital had 34 veteran inpatients with COVID-19 on Monday, according to Jeff Hoelscher, public affairs officer for the hospital. Boone Hospital Center had 65 positive inpatients.

There were 171 people hospitalized with COVID-19 on Monday; 50 people were in the ICU and 18 were on hospital ventilators. Of the people hospitalized, 25 were Boone County residents. Local hospital capacity was at yellow status, according to the COVID-19 Info Hub.

MU had 140 student cases and 48 faculty and staff cases Monday.

Scott Clardy, the Health Department's assistant director, said during the commission meeting that the lack of adherence to existing mask ordinances contributes to the rise in COVID-19 cases.

“We are seeing all kinds of examples of people not following mask ordinances,” Clardy said. “The results are the increase of cases and hospitalizations.”

Sturgeon Mayor Steve Crosswhite said he supported the mandate.

“All pieces (people wearing masks) could fall into place easier if there was a county mandate,” Crosswhite said.

There is no illusion the mandate would work perfectly or achieve full compliance, Presiding Commissioner Daniel Atwill said. “But that is not a reason to not implement it.”

"We must look at the numbers and how things are going to make a right decision," Atwill said.