Though they voted against it, two of Joplin's City Council members expressed disappointment with cities across the region for not answering Mayor Ryan Stanley's call to work on an effort to pass mandatory mask orders.
"Our mayor reached out twice to the area counties and area cites, and they are all part of this same situation," said Councilman Gary Shaw to Jasper County Health Department Director Tony Moehr during a Thursday meeting. "To be honest, I just wanted to thank you for being here and express disappointment in our neighbors for not standing up and taking a serious look at this thing as well."
On the day after the Joplin City Council adopted a mask ordinance, other cities across the region announced no similar meetings or efforts, suggesting that the city of Joplin — the home of the region's hospitals — may again be on its own.
The Globe was unable to reach officials with the cities of Carl Junction, Carthage, Neosho and Webb City to get reactions to the Joplin council's motion or the comments of Shaw and Councilman Phil Stinnett, who also said Thursday he was disappointed over the silence.
The Jasper County Commission plans to discuss passage of such an order but delayed a decision on Friday because the presiding commissioner, John Bartosh, is recovering from COVID-19. Commissioners thought earlier in the week they would be able to meet Friday to talk about their response to a letter from local medical providers seeking a mask mandate.
Commissioner Darieus Adams said the commission may try to hold its regular weekly meeting on Tuesday and talk about it then.
Moehr testified on behalf of a mask mandate Thursday night at a special meeting of the Joplin City Council. Moehr said the county has seen a sharp increase in cases. The positivity rate of COVID tests is about 30%, "so we are not going in the right direction" in controlling the spread, he said.
But getting the county's other cities to buy in may prove challenging.
After representatives from the area's hospitals and health care facilities asked in a joint letter for mask orders to slow down the rate of infection, city leaders in Carl Junction, Carthage and Webb City issued a joint statement of their own. In the statement, they encouraged people to wear masks but because of concerns about enforcement said mask wearing would not be mandatory.
Earlier this week, Newton County Health Department Director Larry Bergner said if he heard of interest from the county's cities, he would consider submitting one to the Newton County Commission. Bergner said he is also skeptical about enforcement of such an order.
So far, Neosho has given no indications about what it will do. Days after Joplin passed its first mask ordinance in July, the city moved in the opposite direction and removed all of its COVID-19 restrictions, including capacity limits.