Alderman Jason Shaffer’s refusal to vote means Ozark residents will not be required to wear masks in public places.
After more than an hour and a half of debate, Shaffer abstained from voting on a bill that would have required face mask use in certain public settings. Aldermen Nathan Posten, Heather Alder, and Bruce Galloway voted for the bill.
The vote came up on Aug. 17, as the Ozark Board of Aldermen met in a mixed format at the Ozark Community Center and on the Zoom teleconferencing platform. The vote also followed a four-hour public hearing conducted on Aug. 10.
R.J. Flores and Ted Smith voted, “No,” and Shaffer abstained.
“I think that’s a shame to put so much attention on masks when there are other things that we should be paying attention to, and we don’t care about that now. All we care about is masks,” Flores said.
Had Shaffer voted in opposition, which appeared to be his intent up until the vote, it would have created a 3-3 tie and put a tying vote into the hands of Mayor Rick Gardner.
“If this had been a tie, I would have voted against it, because I agree with R.J. that the bill is flawed,” Gardner said. “There is too much inconsistent studies of effectiveness of masks that say—I mean, our definition of a face covering is just not adequate.”
Posten saw the bill as a way to be responsive to what is happening in Ozark.
“We should have done this a month ago, guys. A month ago. On March 12, the president of the United States issued an emergency declaration, there were 1,645 cases of COVID in the United States,” Posten said.
As of Aug. 17, Missouri had 68,623 cases and 1,396 deaths attributed to COVID-19. One Christian County resident, a 69-year-old woman from Highlandville, died. That was one death too many in Posten’s mind.
“I am not in a position where I’m going to throw up my hands and say, ‘I’m done, come and take me,' I’m going to fight for this community and I’ve going to push back against this disease any way I can,” Posten said.
Shaffer has opposed local government orders making masks a requirement from the onset.
“With great power comes great responsibility. We have to look at this and take it carefully,” Shaffer said. “If someone can come to me and show me that masks will save a lot of lives, yeah, I’m on it. If there is a demonstration of evidence that (COVID-19) a great threat to our community, that also comes into play.”
However, Shaffer said that the experts failed to provide sufficient evidence that masks were helpful in fighting in the spread of COVID-19.
“To me, that seems to cause more trouble by getting people overconfident that these masks are going to protect them from the disease,” Shaffer said.