A countywide mask mandate approved by the St. Francois County Health Center Board takes effect Monday.
As of Wednesday, the number of active cases in St. Francois County is 851. The active cases on Monday had been 725.
During the public comments portion of the health board meeting Tuesday before the vote took place, there was a mixture of pro- and anti-mandate sentiments with most against the mandate.
Several cited specific reasons against the mask mandate: anxiety, PTSD, infringement on their rights and questionable effectiveness of masks in slowing or preventing the spread of COVID-19.
There were plenty of responses to the mandate all over social media. Some were for the mandate. Some were against the mandate.
One response was from Farmington resident Melissa Workman who attended the Tuesday afternoon meeting at the Centene Center and streamed it live on Facebook for those who were unable to attend.
“I attended the meeting because I wanted to see for myself what the community response to a forced mandate would be,” she said.
She felt it was clear "that the opposition to the mandate far outweighed individuals supporting the mandate.”
On Tuesday night, St. Francois County Health Center Director Amber Elliott said she felt the opinions of residents were split.
“We wanted to hear from the public. We got mixed reviews. The majority of the people who spoke, spoke against it and it is what it is,” Elliott said Tuesday. “We know the public was divided, based on the public comment that we took prior to this, it is almost split right down the middle. So it’s what we were expecting.”
Workman said she could not sleep Tuesday night after the meeting.
“I started the petition because I could not sleep last night,” she said. “I watched three board members quickly remove the freedom of choice from 67,000 people in our county.”
She was alarmed by the drafted mandate and encourages St. Francois County residents to read the document.
“I am not OK with what is happening,” she said, “and I, along with many in the community are taking a stand.”
The petition in which Workman created and posted on her Facebook page and shared to other local social media pages, states the following:
“We the People of St Francois County are demanding that the unconstitutional forced mask mandate on our county be rescinded immediately!! HEALTHY PEOPLE should not be FORCED to wear a mask!! Three of you, John Poston, Jason King and Tara Wadlow, by voting today to mandate masks, betrayed this community and showed a complete lack of concern for our individual liberties. Threatening the community, the very ones that put you in the positions you currently hold, by saying you will enforce this mandate with fines up to $1000 and possible civil and criminal penalties, is evidence that you have forgotten that you are elected officials who work for us!! Imposing a mask mandate and putting in your order that you are not responsible for lost wages, income, or any other damages due to the requirements you imposed is simply not acceptable. There will be lawsuits and you will be held accountable if this is not rescinded. Wearing a mask is a personal decision!! The damages you are causing by imposing a mask mandate far exceeds any questionable benefit you claim will be achieved.”
As of Wednesday at press time, the petition had almost 3,000 signatures.
“The response has been phenomenal,” said Workman, “and the support keeps coming in.”
She has a meeting with Missouri attorney and politician Saundra McDowell and a few other people to discuss what legal actions, if any, can be taken.
“I know others are working on this as well with some attorneys so we will see what happens over the next few days,” said Workman.
She said, “I do know that the community is going to do whatever is necessary to fight it.”
Workman said one protest is already planned for Friday at 5 p.m. in front of the St. Francois County Courthouse.
West County and Farmington Schools have already released information to parents about how they will apply the mandate and when students will have to wear masks and when they won't.
Other businesses and community groups are also working to form plans.
In the coming days, we will have more information about the mandate and what it does and does not require.
Pam Clifton is a contributing writer for the Daily Journal
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