Jackson County businesses can’t serve people not wearing masks for health reasons

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BLUE SPRINGS, Mo. — Some people exempt from wearing a mask in Jackson County will no longer be able to go into businesses.

There’s a bit of a controversy about whether this is a new rule or has been part of the county’s mask mandate all along, but the bottom line is: If you have a medical condition that prohibits you from wearing a mask, a business still can be fined or shut down for letting you in without one. 

“It’s definitely something we didn’t put in our business plan for the first two years,” said Tony DiPlacito, owner of Wind Shift Brewing Company.

Now he has to worry about more than hops, grain, yeast and water, but also policing the people who come in and out of his brewery.

“We have gotten so used to, ‘Here’s the rules you have to live by.’ We live by the rules, and then we try to find out how we can accommodate people,” DiPlacito said. 

The Jackson County Health Department sent an email to business owners Thursday with updated rules, titled Mask Mandate 2.5. One of the changes is, “That service be refused to individuals with a medical exemption from wear a mask.”

Blue Springs City Councilman Chris Lievsay believes the changes were made quietly.

“People like myself — all the mayors in Eastern Jackson County really — have no ability, no process by which to offer input,” Lievsay said. “That’s been a difficult thing, just being able to get information, being able to communicate directly with the people who are making these policies.”

DiPlacito said the Jackson County Health Department has been to Wind Shift Brewing Company three times since the beginning of the reopening phase. His business has passed every time, and he plans to keep it that way.

“We’ve reached out to the health department for further clarification,” DiPlacito said. “What they have gotten back to us on is that for somebody that cannot wear a mask for a medical reason, they are perfectly allowed to sit on our patio. We can go out and serve them, or they can have somebody come in and get beer. They’re just not able to enter without the mask on.”

DiPlacito’s brewery can seat 11 people inside under the county’s 50% rule, so Mask Mandate 2.5 is going to put a dent in his already stressed business.

“We’ve had good customers say, ‘We’ll be back when we don’t have to wear a mask,'” DiPlacito said. “We tell them, ‘We will miss you. We hope you come back.’ But we roll with it.”

In a statement the Jackson County Health Department said: 

“The medical exemptions in the order have remained the same. However, a medical exemption does not mean that persons with exemptions can enter a store without a mask.

“The ADA allows restrictions when an individual would pose a direct threat to the health and safety of others. As of March 2020, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has declared that the COVID-19 pandemic meets the direct threat standard.”

Alexis Patrick said it’s difficult to get her 8-year-old son to wear a mask in public. He suffers from three disorders including severe autism. Until Thursday, Patrick was allowed to take her son into businesses regardless if he could wear a mask.

But not anymore. 

“This is why it’s not fair that I’m getting told now to keep him at home,” Patrick said, “because he can’t handle these things like it’s not fair to him, and he can’t be his own voice.” 

There are still some exceptions: People who are deaf, hard of hearing or children under 5 may still go into businesses without a mask. It is the responsibility of businesses to enforce the rules. 

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