Council urges masks in public; won’t enforce
- Published: June 24, 2020
At its June 15 virtual meeting, Village Council passed a resolution asking people to wear a facial covering, socially distance from one another and clean their hands frequently while in downtown Yellow Springs to slow the spread of COVID-19.
But the recommendations are not legally binding, and the Village will not enforce a public mask requirement.
Instead, Council President Brian Housh called the measure a “formal statement about our expectations in the village,” that is dependent upon “self-compliance.”
The vote was 4–1, with Council member Laura Curliss voting against the resolution.
The resolution also states that those with a documented medical condition or who are younger than four years old are exempt from wearing a face mask.
Earlier in the meeting, Council entertained, but did not vote on, a possible ordinance requiring masks, which would have had the force of law.
Council member Lisa Kreeger, who is a registered nurse, spoke in favor of that stronger measure, saying that Council has “a responsibility to act locally in the interest of the safety of our community” when state and county agencies were not doing enough to protect the village.
“The philosophy of kindness is not working for us,” Kreeger said, referring to a messaging campaign promoting mask-wearing with the phrase “Be Kind.”
“The number of people wearing masks is going down,” she added. “ At this point, we have to have masks available and we have to require masks.”
Kreeger had suggested the facial coverings be mandatory for anyone in the central business district, including on sidewalks. In other areas of town, such as neighborhoods and the bike path, they would not be required.
But other Council members were not sure it would be safe or easy to enforce such an ordinance.
“We would be putting our police officers in close contact with unmasked people,” Curliss said of possible enforcement actions.
Curliss also raised questions about the necessity of the move due to the fact that there has not yet been a spike of cases in Yellow Springs, despite weeks of large crowds downtown.
“I’m grateful we haven’t had the spike,” she said.
Instead of requiring everyone to wear masks, villagers who are vulnerable should stay home, Curliss added.
Housh said Council should not focus solely on masks, but also on the importance of social distancing and hand washing in its messaging.
“We should include the triad,” Housh said. “Distancing is first, facial coverings is second, hand sanitizing/washing is third.”
“If you’re distancing from other people, that’s the most important thing you can be doing,” Housh later said, emphasizing the role of social distancing ahead of masks.
Last week, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control published updated guidance on avoiding infection or spread when going out to shop or run errands. Masks are specifically recommended “in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain,” the guidelines state.