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Tourist town of Branson repeals mask mandate early

The Missouri tourist town of Branson is ditching its mask mandate early after electing a new mayor who ran on a platform that called for doing away with it.

“The city heard your voices loud and clear,” said newly elected Mayor Larry Milton after the Board of Alderman voted 6-0 on Tuesday night to repeal the public masking ordinance effective Friday.

The ordinance was first enacted July 31 after extensive discussion amid rising COVID-19 case counts. Last month, the Board of Aldermen voted 4-2 to repeal it, but delayed implementation until May 24 to allow Branson’s tourism industry an opportunity to vaccinate its front-line workers.

But that wasn’t fast enough for Branson voters, who on April 6 decisively elected Milton to the city’s highest office and remade the composition of the Board of Aldermen.

The discussion leading up to the vote was heated with one community member called masking mandates “diabolically evil.”

Milton called for everyone to support Branson’s business community, regardless of how policy differences over masking requirements played out.

“I want to be very clear with this message,” the mayor said. “If this ordinance passes, I will encourage and fully support any business that continues to mandate masks. I will support anybody who chooses to wear a mask.”

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