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Duluth City Council to vote on mask requirement

Updated: July 01, 2020 06:47 PM

The Duluth City Council is poised to vote July 13 on a mask policy for the city.

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City Councilor Arik Forsman announced the proposed ordinance during a Wednesday news conference. If approved, the ordinance would take effect immediately after the July 13 vote and would likely last for the duration of local and state emergency declarations.

The ordinance would require masks in indoor spaces in Duluth where business with the public is conducted, or where services for the public are rendered, including churches and non-profit organizations.

There would be exemptions for people who are medically unable to tolerate face coverings and children under 10. Also, masks would not be required at restaurants where people are eating as well as schools, child care, and fitness facilities with plans for compliance.

Forsman said the proposed ordinance has "strong support" from Mayor Larson and is also backed by councilors Terese Tomanek, Janet Kennedy, and Joel Sipress.

"We've heard the voices of residents and businesses in our community and we are ready to take action," said Tomanek.

"We are doing this because we want to keep our community healthy, our businesses open, and our city thriving," said Forsman.

During the news conference, hospital leaders highlighted the effectiveness and importance of wearing masks in reducing the spread of COVID-19.

"One thing that has not changed is the effectiveness of wearing a face mask to reduce the transmission. We know that based on recent scientific and clinical studies," said Dr. Jon Pryor, the president of Essentia Health East Market.

"If we all wear masks and maintain distance, we could shut this virus down and we could eliminate it," said Dr. Andrew Thompson, an infectious disease physician for St. Luke’s.

Health leaders say the face mask is used to protect others and is not a political statement.

"By wearing a mask you are not making a political statement, you're making a statement that says I care about others," said Pryor.

St. Louis County Public Health Division Director Amy Westbrook said we did do good prevention at first and said county leaders did see a decline in numbers but that has slowly started to change recently.

"We have seen our numbers increase over the last two weeks and it looks like we may continue to increase this week. Just within the last two days, over half of our cases have been 20 something year olds," said Westbrook.

The University of Minnesota began requiring masks in public places on all campuses Wednesday.  City councils in other cities across the state, including Edina and Rochester, voted this week to require face masks in all city facilities.

There is an online citizen petition calling for a mask ordinance in Duluth and the issue has elicited numerous emails to the city council, both for and against the idea. 

"I think with the safety of our community in mind it’s a no brainer for me," said Kala Pedersen of Duluth.

"It's an uncomfortable, unpleasant thing to have to do but if it saves someone's life then I guess it's worth it," said Jeff Petcoff.

Forsman said the ordinance would be enforced. He added that warning letters, escalating fines and misdemeanor prosecution would be on the table for businesses or members of the public who choose not to comply with the policy.

Copyright 2020 WDIO-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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