Mayor Bill McMurray on emergency mask mandate

St. Joseph’s emergency order mandates face coverings for indoor areas, including residences, when 6-foot social distancing cannot be maintianed.

A mask mandate for most indoor areas in St. Joseph goes into effect Thursday morning, and enforcement of the new rule will concentrate largely on getting businesses to comply.

St. Joseph Mayor Bill McMurray signed the emergency order mandating face coverings in most indoor areas, excluding residences, when a 6-foot social distance cannot be maintained.

The mandate will not involve enforcement by police officers. Mayor McMurray said his hope is people will voluntarily comply with the emergency order.

“This applies to any place other than residential in the city and that’s a really drastic move but ... we have a pandemic and we have a sudden spike in cases, and if everybody will help and put on a mask for the next 30 days let’s see if we can get these numbers down,” McMurray said.

Under the mayor’s order, owners and managers of establishments can be fined for violating the new mask rule. However, there are no plans to fine members of the public who refuse to comply. The St. Joseph Health Department has been assigned to enforce the mayor’s mask orders, which it can do via fines.

“A fine of not less than a dollar and not more than $500 against the operators of the indoor space so the responsibility goes with the people who own or manage the occupancy, whatever it may be,” McMurray said.

The mayor said the previous ordinance that called for masks to be worn inside spaces of 10,000 square feet or larger has been followed fairly well.

“I only know anecdotally from my own travels around the city and I saw lots of people, some where it was not even required,” McMurray said. “A lot of places are doing this of their own accord, which is wise risk management.”

He said he does not know of any fines given out during the previous ordinance requiring a mask in those large retail businesses.

The decision to implement the mandate was made Tuesday after Mosaic Life Care reported 36 hospitalizations related to COVID-19, which was a new high for the hospital. That number dropped to 30 people hospitalized at Mosaic on Wednesday.

Morgan Riddell can be reached at morgan.riddell@newspressnow.com