City Council votes down mask mandate

Nov. 10, 2020

Sioux Falls won’t be implementing a mask requirement.

Mayor Paul TenHaken was the deciding “no” vote, after the City Council voted 4-4.

“I obviously believe in masks, the importance they play in slowing the spread of COVID-19,” TenHaken said, while pointing to actions he’s taken such as requiring masks among city employees, promoting masks publicly and pulling together other mayors to support masking.

“The unenforceable nature of it is a challenge … I’m not putting anything else on our cops. I’m going to defend those cops and I’m not going to put any more on their plates.”

The “small uptick” in compliance isn’t worth the community division the mandate would cause, he said.

“We can do these things that we know will slow the spread of this virus right now,” TenHaken said.

City Council member Curt Soehl sponsored the ordinance, which would have required face coverings when not able to distance by 6 feet or more. Those under the age of five would not have been required, and people seated to eat or drink or consuming food or beverages would not have to wear them, as well as those receiving medical care or with medical conditions that prevent masking.

Soehl pointed to the increase in positive tests and hospitalizations as “a terrible, terrible trend.”

“We know that we have a crisis here in our state. We can’t control the state, but we can control what goes on in Sioux Falls.”

He said more masking in the city would support brick and mortar business by promoting safer shopping.

“It’s for the health and safety of our citizens. It’s to relieve stress from our very stressed health care systems. It’s to keep our businesses open and potentially bring in additional business, not to mention to keep employees working,” said Rick Kiley, who supported the ordinance.

Marshall Selberg, who voted against the ordinance, said he would have been more inclined to support it as a resolution, which would not have brought an enforcement element with it. Many citizens have told him they won’t comply with any mask mandate, he added.

“I’m getting comments on all the time … we’ve got people who are going to dig in on this. We are going to have some conflict,” Selberg said.

The other councilors who opposed the mandate — Christine Erickson, Alex Jensen and Greg Neitzert — encouraged people to wear masks despite not being required to do it.

“I don’t want to live in a city where people are calling the police because somebody’s not wearing a mask,” Neitzert said, adding businesses that think they would benefit from a mask requirement should implement one themselves.

“It’s not just about health. We also have to look at principles.”

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City Council votes down mask mandate

Sioux Falls won’t be implementing a mask requirement.

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