The Branson Board of Aldermen voted to extend the city's face-covering ordinance Tuesday evening until Oct. 14, but not before more than a dozen people spoke against the mandate.


All aldermen were present for the 5-1 vote.


Prior to voting, the board heard from about 13 people who opposed the face-covering ordinance and two in support.


Bill Large was the first to speak, calling the board's decision to pass the mandate "draconian."


"COVID is not the big bad wolf everyone says it is," Large said. "This (mask) is a joke to me. It does not prevent COVID-19."


Audrey Richards, who is running as an independent candidate in the 7th District Congressional race, spoke in support of a mask mandate.


"As a Branson resident, I feel safer," Richards said. "This is about public safety."


Joshua Pope also spoke in favor of the face-covering mandate. Pope said he was diagnosed with COVID-19 a few weeks ago.


"Everyone who supports this knows these are not 100 percent invincible," Pope said. "COVID was not bad for me, but what wasn't bad for me might be bad for you and you."


Entertainer Clay Cooper said folks in Branson were more afraid of losing their livelihood than they were of catching COVID-19.


Then, in an apparent effort to show how little he feared the virus, Cooper told the board he would kiss alderman Bill Skains "in the mouth" if Cooper thought Skains had COVID-19.


"And I don't even like men," he added.


Russell Eugene said he was "forced into early retirement" because of the ordinance.


"I was having hallucinations at work because of a lack of oxygen to my brain," Eugene said. "You have destroyed the economy of this city."


One woman said she knows of people who have died from wearing a mask, but said she doesn't know anyone who has died of COVID-19.


"This is not a pandemic," the woman said. "This is a forced-upon-America lie."


Another man told the board they would be responsible for all of the deaths caused by masks.


Glen Meyer asked the board if any of them were being compensated for passing the face-covering mandate.


"It's not your job to oversee my health," Meyer told the board.


In preparation for the vote, the board heard information from the Taney County Health Department and a tourism market researcher at a special study session last week.


Before voting against extending the ordinance Tuesday, Alderman Larry Milton took off his mask and accused Mayor Edd Akers of not inviting experts who oppose mask mandates to the study session.


According to information presented at the study session, most Branson travelers (84 percent) say they are more likely or just as likely to visit places with mask mandates. Those who are more likely to (46 percent) outnumber those less likely (16 percent) by a margin of nearly three to one.


Lisa Marshall, director of the Taney County Health Department, also presented information at the study session.


Marshall told the board that Taney County has a higher number of cases per 100,000 people than Greene County. Through Wednesday, Taney County had 1,775 cases per 100,000 residents while Greene County had 1,433.


The highest rate in the state is McDonald County, with 4,379 per 100,000 and the lowest is in St. Clair County, with 319.


As of July 30, 70 percent of Taney County's cases were Branson residents, Marshall said. As of Sept. 3, that number has dropped to 61 percent.


At the study session, Marshall presented the board with a graph that shows the number of new cases reported from July 1 to Aug. 25. The date the mask mandate went into effect (July 31) is marked and an orange line indicates the seven-day rolling average, which has been declining since July 31.


"This shows you what has happened since that ordinance took place," Marshall said last week. "Anecdotally from what my office has seen, at one point we were seeing 40 cases a day. We are now down to maybe 10 or 15."


Under the ordinance, exemptions are made for those with a health condition documented by a medical professional, who are hearing impaired and someone who is communicating with a person who is hearing impaired.