Branson Mayor Larry Milton released a statement on Tuesday, July 13, concerning the rise of COVID-19 in the city and the region.
The mayor’s statement centered around a theme of citizen freedom to make their decisions regarding vaccines, masking, and their medical choices.
Milton stated his position that he is not against masking, and that if residents want to wear a mask he completely supports their decision to wear them. He also said that if local business owners want to require masks inside their businesses, he is also entirely behind the business owner’s decision.
Milton also stated that while it is the role of the mayor and the city’s Board of Alderman to make sure the community is aware of where they can receive a COVID-19 vaccine, it’s not his place to promote the vaccine.
Here is Milton’s statement:
I wanted to take a few minutes today to address the ongoing COVID-19 situation facing our area and my thoughts about how our community can respond to the ever-changing landscape of the situation.
First, let me state clearly and for the record: I will not support another government mask mandate, nor will I support a vaccine mandate. I didn’t talk about freedom and liberty during my campaign for Mayor simply as a way to get elected. I championed those values then, as I do now, because I believe that each individual should have the right to decide for themselves how to best handle their own medical decisions.
With that being said, I want to reiterate a few statements I’ve made since the beginning of all this:
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.
And the SAME goes for those individuals or businesses that choose not to wear or require masks for themselves and their businesses.
Freedom means the freedom to decide to wear a mask OR not to wear one.
No businesses or individuals should be persecuted, blacklisted or attacked because they disagree with YOUR individual viewpoint on the mask issue. The wonderful thing about our country and our city is that we can disagree while still coexisting with each other.
Ultimately, our consumers will decide where they want to dine, shop and stay based on their own personal views on the issue. If they feel more comfortable patronizing a restaurant, retail store, theater, attraction or any business that requires masks, they should be able to make that choice for themselves. Again, the same applies for visitors that feel comfortable patronizing businesses without mask requirements. Our community can and should decide for themselves how to handle their own medical decisions, and our visitors will do the same.
Now, to address the issue of vaccines.
I believe your Mayor and Board of Alderman should make sure our local community is informed of the availability of vaccines for those who would like to get vaccinated. The Branson area has 15 locations where vaccine shots are readily available and free of charge. If you want to get the vaccine, you can.
I DO NOT believe it’s my place, or the place of any politician, to endorse, promote or compel any person to get any vaccine. That’s a decision that should be made by each individual in consultation with their doctor and their family. If you have questions about the vaccine and if it’s right for you, you should ask your doctor.
Finally, I do have one request I will make of you, the people. Be good to one another. Be good to those who visit our town. Don’t let temporary disagreements drive us apart forever. Whether you are masked or not, vaccinated or not, make smart decisions. Wash your hands regularly, maintain social distancing when possible, if you are sick STAY HOME and be aware of those around you who may think differently than you do about the issue. Be courteous, be thoughtful, be Branson.
Larry D. Milton
The mayor’s statement comes on the heels of national attention on Branson because of high rates of COVID-19 infections tied to the Delta variant of the disease. National publications like Bloomberg highlighted the rise of cases in the region; CBS late night show host Stephen Colbert used the rise in cases to mock Branson visitors.
The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services reported Wednesday, July 14, that Taney County has had 190 confirmed cases of the disease in the last seven days, a daily average of 27 cases. There are also 121 cases considered probable COVID-19 cases not yet confirmed via PCR test.
The statement from the mayor drew hundreds of comments on the Facebook page of Branson Tri-Lakes News, with the majority against the mayor’s position. However, the mayor did have his supporters:
“What a great Mayor!” Toni Gallardo wrote. “Branson is lucky to have you! Freedom rings true in your words and deeds!”
“Very well said,” Kathy Niemeyer Bottrell said. “I know you are getting grief over your stance, but these 2 Kimberling city residents are sending you lots of vibes of support and encouragement.”
“People should most definitely get to choose for themselves whether or not they want to take a vaccine that is experimental at best and not FDA approved,” Amber Defina wrote. “He is standing up for the rights of freedom for all Americans. Use your own mind on getting vaccinated or not. I love Larry Milton and I am vaccinated and I stand for people’s right to choose if they want it or not.”
The Mayor’s detractors tended to be very pointed in their criticism of his views, with many expressing their opposition to Milton’s comments regarding people’s rights to decide for themselves.
“Unbelievable,” Monique Jones said. “I hope the medical community reads this too. He has ZERO concern for the health and well-being as long as you all have your ‘freedom.’ Hope they don’t run out of ventilators during the next wave of the pandemic. Your ignorance will be your downfall.”
“I feel he is wrong on a couple of things,” Steve Johnson wrote. “First, the evidence is clear that the vaccine is the only way out of this so it IS the responsibility of politicians to encourage people to be vaccinated. It’s called leadership. Secondly, it is a personal decision but it’s also a matter of social responsibility. Getting the shot prevents you from infecting and perhaps causing the death of a friend, family member, or stranger. Remember about being our brother’s keeper?”
“Wow...... ridiculous,” Bill Turney said. “Well.....elections have consequences and as long as Branson’s leadership has this attitude, Branson will continue to receive nationwide negative press, more businesses will suffer worker shortages due to illness and more residents will contract the virus and be hospitalized. I wonder if we’ll get our own variant named after us?”
Visit the Branson Tri-Lakes News page on Facebook to view all the comments surrounding the mayor’s statement.