CARTHAGE, Mo. — The Carthage City Council will meet again in a special meeting at 2 p.m. Wednesday to consider some specific responses to the spike in COVID-19 cases in the city over the past month.
City Administrator Tom Short said three items have been placed on the agenda for the meeting by council members:
• Closing the parks to all gatherings of more than 10 people.
• Rolling back the city’s reopening to phase one of Gov. Mike Parson’s recovery plan.
• Consider mandatory masks for people over the age of 6 in public spaces where it is impossible to maintain 6 feet of physical distancing.
Short said City Attorney Nate Dally was writing the mask ordinance for the meeting.
Council member David Armstrong announced Thursday on his council member Facebook page that he was requesting the special meeting, immediately following a special meeting that included almost an hour and a half of discussion but no votes.
The meetings come at the end of a month that has seen the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases since March in Jasper County outside Joplin balloon from 24 on May 29 to 532 as of Monday, according to the Jasper County Health Department.
The department has said in numerous written releases in June that the outbreak is centered on Carthage.
Approximately 200 people had been released from isolation, meaning they were no longer positive for the virus, as of a release from the department on Wednesday.
Armstrong said he realized early at Thursday’s special meeting that some council members were not ready to take any concrete actions in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.
He said no concrete proposals were on the agenda for that meeting, so the council would have had to meet again anyway to vote on any ordinances or policy changes.
“I wanted to wait and hear what everyone else was going to put on the table because I already knew how I felt and sort of the direction I wanted to go personally,” Armstrong said. “My goal was to wait and see what everyone else was going to put on the table."
But no direction that anybody was willing to go in developed, he said, so the meeting discussion did not produce "any sort of meaningful result.”
“I don’t want to have a discussion about doing nothing when we could take a step back, come back to a different meeting in which we have actionable items that we can actually discuss doing,” Armstrong said.
The city has several major events coming up in July that could be affected by any actions.
Changes have already been made to the traditional Independence Day fireworks display, slated for Saturday at the Carthage Golf Course in Municipal Park, but as of Monday, the event was still on the schedule.
The Carthage Convention and Visitors Bureau announced on Facebook that food trucks that would normally have been available near the swimming pool had been canceled. Also canceled is the July 10 Food Truck Friday event, scheduled for Central Park. This was fourth Food Truck Friday event to fall victim to the pandemic.
Organizers of the Jasper County Youth Fair, slated for July 14-18, say they've been working on major changes to that event in hopes of being able to hold it.
Roxanne Willard, a longtime member of the Youth Fair Board, said members ha ve been discussing possible scenarios for weeks as the pandemic continued.
She said board members will be waiting on the City Council’s decision to see if they can hold the event.
"We modified some events or canceled parts of them to accommodate their concerns and wishes,” Willard said. “I think at this point we want to have the fair, and we think we can do it safely. We’ve all been dealing with this coronavirus thing for quite a while now, and people are getting used to social distancing. They’re used to modifications. They’re used to change. They’re used to things being done different.”