SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — The Springfield-Greene County Health Department reports only 39% of eligible people in Greene County are vaccinated and is teaming up with James River Church and Central Assembly to encourage people to get vaccinated.

Acting Director for the Springfield-Greene County Health Department explained at the briefing why partnering with faith leaders is an important strategy.

“Faith leaders today are partnering with us and they have congregations full of people who they can encourage this solution that will be the path to the protection of not only the individuals but our congregation,” said Towns.

“We want to make sure that we have the opportunity to worship the way we want to,” said Pastor David Jayne with the Central Assembly of God Church. “And we can’t right now because of the way this virus is spreading through our community.”

Vaccination wasn’t the only hot topic at the briefing as many community members are now wondering whether a masking mandate should be enforced again.

“Masks served a temporary purpose and that was to get us to a solution that would give us lasting and sustainable immunity,” said Towns.

New public health measures like a mask mandate would be unenforceable, according to Springfield Mayor Ken McClure.

“I encourage people to wear a mask,” said McClure. “Particularly during this time until we defeat this variant. That being said mandated masking had its role. It served its purpose of making sure we bought enough time in this community to get the vaccine readily available.”

He also expressed his concerns about what could happen if a masking mandate is enforced.

“In my opinion, a mandated masking ordinance would defeat several purposes,” said McClure. “I believe it would make people believe we don’t have to get vaccinated and essentially it is just a band aid approach.”

Towns and Mayor McClure recommend masking and social distancing for people who are not vaccinated.