Gatherings of more than 10 people are now prohibited in Marshfield. In Webster County, gatherings of 10 or more are now prohibited (meaning that gatherings are capped at nine).
In an emergency meeting of the Marshfield Board of Aldermen on March 17, the city leaders passed an ordinance to ban gatherings of 50 or more people in the city limits. But then an executive order of the mayor on Friday clamped down further to prohibit gatherings of more than 10 people.
The Webster County Commissioners followed suit shortly after Marshfield's revised order, and their order effectively caps gatherings at nine, prohibiting gatherings of 10 or more.
It seems clear that the two entities were going for the same basic level of restriction, but their differences in wording resulted in a different cap.
In nearby Springfield, which seems to be the model for the cap, the wording of the city’s order prohibits groups of 10 or more, like the county’s order.
Additionally, the cities of Rogersville and Strafford passed ordinances prohibiting public gatherings of 10 or more, with the Rogersville ordinance defining a public gathering as a "planned or spontaneous event with a number of people in attendance that could facilitate the spread of a communicable disease."
The mandates are intended to combat the spread of coronavirus and its associated illness, COVID-19, in communities.
Marshfield Mayor Robert Williams offered the advice that people get good information from authoritative sources in an interview following the March 17 meeting. "I think the best thing that people can do is pay attention to the info that they're receiving fro places like the CDC website and the bulletins that are coming out on the news that are relaying that information," he said. "Pay attention to that and follow the advice being given."
He said that in his own household, he and his wife Audrey are focusing on hand-washing and social distancing. "We have to control the things we can control and not worry about the things we can’t," he said. "The biggest thing people can do is live their lives, but for right now, it’s a matter of living my life with some inconvenience to make sure that I am protected and those around me are protected as much as possible."
The mayor offered some encouragement as well.
"We should be confident that we're doing all that we can do," he said. "The most important thing that we can do is that we would be in prayer for all of those who have contracted this disease and all of those who are going to come in contact with it. Pray for God to protect us in all of this and put it in his hands."
The mayor said that the city’s emergency management representative is Marshfield Fire Department Chief Michael Taylor. "We're all communicating very closely right now, trying to stay aware of where things are at, because things are moving very quickly," Mayor Williams said.
He pointed out that his term of office ends April 9, and he is not thinking at all about politics.
"We're trying to do the best we can to protect our community," he said. "Sometimes those decisions are going to be right on, and sometimes they seem like overkill or taking things too far. That's just the way it is."
He acknowledged that many people are being forced to make sacrifices right now. "In order to get the best outcome, it's probably not going to be convenient," the mayor said. "We should prepare ourselves, all of us, to be inconvenienced. I don’t know where this will lead."
As a practical matter, the mayor said that he and the board recommend that the community exceed the board’s mandate and choose not to gather in groups for now.
Williams said that some people may regard the restriction as overkill. "If overkill right now does everything it needs to do to slow the spread of this virus, we'll look back on this time and say, 'That was overkill.' That will be good. I'll take that."
Marshfield's executive order appears as a sidebar to this story. Webster County's lengthier order appears in full on The Mail's website, marshfieldmail.com.