Miskel: county mask mandate unlikely

By Buck Collier, Special Correspondent
Posted 7/29/20

HERMANN — The low number of active coronavirus cases in Gasconade County does not warrant an official local-government mandate to wear masks, said Presiding Commissioner Larry Miskel in …

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Miskel: county mask mandate unlikely

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HERMANN — The low number of active coronavirus cases in Gasconade County does not warrant an official local-government mandate to wear masks, said Presiding Commissioner Larry Miskel in response to an effort last week by health officials seeking a formal encouragement to wear face coverings.

Miskel, R-Hermann, at last week’s County Commission session recounted a meeting earlier in the day of the Hermann Chamber of Commerce during which Dr. Michael Rothermich of Hermann Area District Hospital, in conjunction with the county’s health agency, gave a presentation emphasizing the advantage of wearing masks to help curb spread of the coronavirus. The presentation had been made to the Owensville Board of Aldermen and was scheduled to be made to the Hermann Board of Aldermen.

County government’s top administrator noted that while health officials would prefer to see a formal order mandating the use of face masks by the public, the countywide statistics on coronavirus cases does not justify such an order. As of last Thursday, there had been 21 cases of the virus reported with all but four of the people having recovered from the virus. More importantly, Miskel noted, there has been no death reported as a result of the virus, adding that there is no basis for a countywide requirement to wear masks.

Indeed, it’s unlikely the County Commission could require such action to begin with. As a third-class county, Gasconade County lacks the authority to adopt an ordinance requiring the wearing of masks countywide.

A decision to wear — or not wear — a mask should be left to the individual or a business, Miskel said.

In other matters at last week’s session, Miskel and Associate Commissioners Jerry Lairmore, R-Owensville, and Jim Holland, R-Hermann, formally adopted the small-business loan program that will be funded with part of the county’s CARES Act money. The framework of a loan program was approved a week earlier as the county administrators agreed to set aside $700,000 of the county’s $1.725 million it received as its share of the $2.2-trillion coronavirus relief funding.

The program will be administered by the staff of Meramec Regional Planning Commission (MRPC). That agency now publicly will be announcing the availability of the funding, the maximum amounts available to individual businesses and the process to be used in applying for funds.

The county’s Road Department will be moving quickly to meet a deadline on acquiring a  new dump truck that will be paid for in part with money from a settlement with Volkswagon. The county is facing an Aug. 14 deadline to submit proof of purchase in order to receive reimbursement of $45,000 from VW toward the cost of a new truck. County officials noted earlier that the full amount of a new truck will have to be paid out of an already tight General Revenue Fund. The commissioners said they felt enough savings could be found throughout the budget, coupled with the reimbursement, to allow the purchase of a new dump truck.

The truck that will be retired has accumulated about 400,000 miles, officials said.

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