Sioux Falls approves mask mandate, with no penalties for non-compliance

Nov. 17, 2020

Face coverings now will be required in Sioux Falls in many situations.

The Sioux Falls City Council voted 6-2 in favor of the measure that will require face coverings inside in public places where physical distancing is not possible, with multiple exceptions.

Those under the age of five will not be required to wear masks, people seated to eat or drink or consuming food or beverages will not have to wear them, as well as those working in certain public safety roles, participating in athletic activities that preclude masking or receiving medical care or with medical conditions that prevent masking.

The mandate will take effect immediately and will not have a penalty associated with it. Those were changes amended from the original version voted down last week.

It will sunset Jan. 1, 2021 unless extended.

Businesses are not expected to enforce the city’s mandate but can continue to enforce their policies as they have been.

“There’s not an obligation frankly … for a business to enforce that on their own,” city attorney Stacy Kooistra said, calling the passing of a law without a penalty for violating it “a relatively unique thing.”

Councilor Marshall Selberg, who voted against the ordinance last week, said his concerns were addressed by changes this week.

“My initial problem with putting this in a mandate were the issues I had with no deadline to it and the endless issues that could arise when enforcing this,” Selberg said, pointing to how the medical community is stretched and believes “this can be a huge help to their effort,” he said.

“This is what has pretty much gotten me to the point where we have to give this a try. There is no arguing the facts that the numbers are skyrocketing in the wrong direction.”

Councilor Alex Jensen also changed his vote.

“I think it is our duty to help and work and make resources available for our emergency rooms because it’s not only the COVID patients I’m concerned about,” he said. “I want to have an abundance of healthcare. We’ve heard from our ER doctors. We’ve heard from our nurses. It’s a workforce problem.”

The city leadership came up with a reasonable approach to the revamped ordinance, said councilor Curt Soehl who initiatively introduced the measure.

“We never intended this to be a punitive measure,” he said. “Nobody said says masks are a silver bullet that will take care of this … we need to educate our public about the rest of it too.”

Councilors Christine Erickson and Greg Neitzert voted against the ordinance though supported amendments to it.

“I’m trying to make this thing as weak or ineffectual as possible,” councilor Greg Neitzert said. “I want to neuter this as best I can”

If you’re for mandates, he said, “you’re not getting anything tonight” because of the lack of enforcement and other loopholes.

Those who didn’t support it will be “vilified, picked at,” he said.

Dozens of citizens again testified on either side of the discussion, including several from other states who said they have recently moved to Sioux Falls because of its less stringent COVID-19 mitigation efforts.

“I jokingly tell people I moved to South Dakota because I missed living in the United States,” said James Gordon, who moved to the city nine weeks ago from Nashville

“We have seen onerous draconian restrictions and lockdowns and mandates far exceeding anything they were originally proposed to do.”

Avera Health released the following statement about its support of the masking measure and other mitigation efforts:

“Out of respect for our front line caregivers, Avera supports a healthy workforce and keeping businesses and schools open. The pathway to this is through practicing good hygiene, social distancing and wearing masks. Avera supports masking, and in the communities considering mask mandates, we support this measure. This is consistent with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) which has affirmed that wearing masks can help communities slow the spread of COVID-19 when worn consistently and correctly by a majority of people in public settings.”

Earlier today, the city held an update in which health care providers addressed the current surge in patients.

At one point yesterday, there were 11 open intensive care unit beds across more than 30 Avera hospitals, said Dr. David Basel, vice president for clinical quality with Avera Medical Group.

“We are pretty much at historical levels,” he said, calling the patient volume higher than any point in 25 years.

To read more, click below.

TenHaken: Mask mandate ‘will likely pass’ tonight

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Sioux Falls approves mask mandate, with no penalties for non-compliance

Face coverings now will be required in Sioux Falls in many situations.

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