Cape County masking order to take effect Monday

Cape Girardeau County Public Health Center officials Friday afternoon issued a face-covering order for the county, set to take effect at 12:01 a.m. Monday, to slow the spread of COVID-19.

The order -- signed by director Jane Wernsman, board of trustees president Roland Sander and medical director John Russell -- applies to anyone 9 years of age and older and includes businesses and public spaces.

According to the order, face coverings must be worn by anyone older than 9 -- including employees and visitors -- at any business or public space, outdoors in a public space when anyone other than members of their household or living unit will be within 6 feet and at any gathering of individuals who are not members of their household (outside personal residences) in any area involving contact within 6 feet or when social distancing is not feasible.

The order states anyone knowingly violating the order "shall be deemed guilty of a Class A misdemeanor," which carries a penalty of up to one year in the county jail and/or a fine not to exceed $1,000. Also regarding enforcement, the order states the county health authority can enforce a number of actions including "isolation, quarantine, disinfection and closure of establishments in the interest of public health."

The order's stated purpose is to "ensure people protect themselves and others, particularly those who are vulnerable to poorer outcomes related to COVID-19 infection. As face to face interactions increase and as scientific evidence indicates that COVID-19 is spread by asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic individuals, it is critical that all individuals wear face covering in public spaces."

There is no end date listed for the order.


A number of exemptions to the masking order includes children younger than 3 (though the order encourages children between the ages of 3 and 9 to wear a face covering) and persons:

* with health conditions that prohibit wearing a face covering

* who are hearing impaired or communicating with someone who is hearing impaired

* at a place of business or public space consuming food or drink while adequately distanced from others

* at a public pool while in the water, obtaining a service involving the nose or face for which temporarily removing the face covering is necessary

* playing a sport

* exercising or using exercise equipment where participants are at least 6 feet apart.

Business effects

The order compels businesses and other entities providing a public space to post the requirement that face coverings are required for entry and must be continuously worn while present in the business or on the premises

Businesses may deny entry to anyone refusing to wear a face covering, though business representatives "shall neither require the individual to produce medical documentation verifying a medical condition or disability, nor ask about the nature of a medical condition or disability."

The order defines public spaces as businesses or other workplace facilities, public and private, indoor and outdoor, used by the public. Among the types of entities named are grocery and retail stores, service establishments, educational institutions, entertainment and recreational facilities, public and private social clubs, places of worship and public facilities such as government offices.