Pro-mask candidates leave office as Missouri tires of limits

Associated Press
Associated Press

Pro-mask candidates are leaving office and occupancy limits are falling by the wayside in Missouri as communities tire of pandemic restrictions. 

In the central Missouri city of Rolla, a slate of of anti-mask candidates joined the City Council on Monday after being elected this month even though the mask mandate they opposed was allowed to expire two months ago, St. Louis Public Radio reported. 

"We recognized that 'Hey, we've got people on the Council that don't necessarily go along with our value system,'" said Robert Kessinger, who was among those who defeated five Council members who backed the city's mask mandate and capacity restrictions. 

Other anti-mask elected officials also lost their seats in April elections, including in the tourist community of Branson.

Joplin, meanwhile, dropped all of its occupancy limits on Monday, The Joplin Globe reported. Active COVID-19 cases have dropped dramatically in Joplin since their winter peak, although they recently increased from 19 two weeks ago to 25 as of Monday, said Ryan Talken, the city's health director. He also noted that nearly half of a local clinic's 300 vaccine appointments on Tuesday were still unfilled as of Monday, mirroring what is happening in communities around the state. 

Talken asked that the panel not rule out having to reinstate some restrictions if needed.

"There are things out there," he said. "There are variants that could cause an increase in case counts."

In St. Louis County, the health department identified 71 people who tested positive for COVID-19 after they were fully vaccinated, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

That amounts to just 0.03% of the 226,000 whom state data shows had been fully vaccinated in the county. Nationally, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported last week that it had received 5,814 reports of breakthrough infections, or about 0.008% of the more than 75 million people fully vaccinated.

But experts say the findings reinforce that, even post-vaccine, people still need to be cautious.

"That's important to tell people, because if you're vaccinated, you kind of feel like you're bulletproof," said Dr. James Hinrichs, infectious disease advisor for the St. Louis County Department of Public Health.