St. Louis will reinstate its mask mandate on Monday, as one local health official tries to blame country music fans in Branson, 250 miles away, for rising cases across the state.
“Branson has a lot of country-western shows,” Dr. Marc Johnson of the University of Missouri School of Medicine told the Daily Beast. “No Vaccines. No masks. A bunch of people indoors and air conditioning, tightly packed, listening to music, possibly singing along, i.e. a superspreading event.”
Johnson is responsible for testing the state’s wastewater for signs of COVID, according to the report. The doctor admitted: “I don’t know that Branson is what seeded the entire outbreak in Missouri. But I always suspected.”
Rural Taney County in the Ozark Mountains, where Branson is located, has witnessed a total of 5,111 confirmed COVID cases and 102 deaths in more than a year and a half since the outbreak began, according to local data.
The city of St. Louis, and surrounding St. Louis County, are among the first major communities in America to issue new mask mandates. The city has seen an uptick in COVID cases in recent days, to an average of about 200 new cases per day. St. Louis witnessed more than 1,000 new cases per day at the peak of COVID last fall.
“The new rule will require everyone age five and over, including those who are vaccinated, to wear a mask. Wearing masks outdoors, especially in group settings, will be strongly encouraged,” according to a statement issued by St. Louis Mayor Tishaura O. Jones.
Dr. Johnson’s effort to blame country music fans for rising cases across the state appears in response to the mayor of Branson’s recent public opposition to government-imposed mask mandates.
“I will not support another government mask mandate, nor will I support a vaccine mandate,” Branson Mayor Larry Milton said on July 13. “If you choose to wear a mask, I support your decision. If you own a business and choose to require masks in your business, I support your decision.”