Updated: January 13, 2022 06:45 PM
Created: January 13, 2022 09:47 AM
Duluth Mayor Emily Larson has signed a declaration of emergency imposing a mask mandate in response to current COVID-19 case levels.
The mandate will take effect at 5 p.m. Friday and continue for 30 days. Larson noted during her announcement Thursday that the city council could choose to extend the mandate beyond 30 days.
Those who are exempt are ages under 5 and child care, which is something that was in place in the previous mandate.
And with the current state of rising cases and the workforce being drastically hurt by the Omicron variant, she believes now is the time to enforce the mandate.
Larson says, "What is happening now, that's very acute, is that we are seeing staff shortages that are scary, that are detrimental, that will impact your ability to potentially get the kind of health care that you need in an emergency. That is not Omicron related."
"If you want to be mad, be mad at me about it. I'll take the heat, that's my job," Larson added Thursday in announcing her decision.
The Mayor noted that often a mask mandate has an anti-business connotation. But she ensures the public that isn't the case saying, "I have to tell you this is pro-business. The two largest employers have requested this, are needing it, have asked for it in a way that protects not just their workers, but our health."
Larson said doesn't make public policy based on emails, social media, or commentaries in the newspapers. She said her job is to create policy that supports public health.
Larson said violations of the mask mandate carry the possibility of a misdemeanor charge. Complaints about alleged violations can be sent to email@example.com.
The announcement comes three days after the Duluth City Council passed an ordinance making it clear that the mayor has the authority to issue a mask mandate. The vote came after two city councilors blocked other city councilors' attempt to pass an emergency mask measure.
The talk of restoring Duluth's mask requirement, which was dropped last summer, has come amid a rise in COVID-19 cases and after Minneapolis and St. Paul reinstated their own mask mandates.
The mayors of both Minneapolis and St. Paul also announced Wednesday that people will need to show proof of vaccination or a negative test to enter stadiums, theaters, bars, restaurants, and other venues beginning Jan. 19. No such requirement has been announced in Duluth.
Leaders of both Duluth health systems joined the mayor at Thursday's press conference to voice their support for the mandate.
City spokesperson Kate Van Daele said the city will post a flier on its website that businesses can print and post, explaining that the mandate is a city decision.
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