SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — Sioux Falls city leaders approved a 60-day mask mandate after a long and sometimes-heated hearing Tuesday, Nov. 17, a week after voting down a similar mandate that included an enforcement mechanism.

The City Council voted 6-2 to implement a mask mandate for people inside retail businesses and city-owned facilities where social distancing of 6 feet can't be maintained. The mandate, which includes a broad range of exceptions and doesn't include a penalty if not followed, will go into effect when the ordinance is published in the local newspaper on Saturday, Nov. 21.

"We've heard time and again that our hospital systems, our medical providers, are just stressed beyond stressed," said Councilor Rick Kiley, a co-sponsor of the emergency ordinance containing the mandate. "I think it's time that we respond to them."

The decision comes a week after Mayor Paul TenHaken broke a 4-4 council tie to defeat a largely similar ordinance. But a number of factors shifted the city leaders' position on the issue.

Earlier on Tuesday, TenHaken had said in a news conference he now supported the ordinance without a penalty and because health care organizations had expressed support for a mask mandate. During the ordinance hearing, two city councilors who had previously voted against the mandate expressed similar reasons for why they had changed their minds.

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The two city councilors who remained opposed to a mask mandate were strident in their opposition.

"We're just going to do it because we've just been basically emotionally blackmailed into, 'You've got to do something,'" said Councilor Greg Neitzert.

The City Council decision came after an extensive public hearing, where the City Council heard from both supporters and opponents of a mask mandate.

The ordinance specifies a face covering that meets the mandate include paper or disposable face masks, cloth masks, scarves, bandannas or neck gaiters, as long as they completely cover the nose and mouth.

The mask mandate offers a long list of exemptions, including if you:

  • Are under age 5;
  • Are seated at a public place to eat or drink, or immediately consuming food or drink;
  • Are getting dental or medical care that prevents you from wearing a mask;
  • Have a medical condition, mental health condition or disability that makes it "unreasonable ... to maintain a face covering;"
  • Are swimming on doing a team sport where level of exertion makes it difficult to wear a mask;
  • Are a public safety worker on the job, and where it would make it difficult to wear a mask;
  • Are in a retail business and part of a group who live in the same household, and stay 6 feet away from people not in the household;
  • Are in a group of 10 or fewer, as long as members stay 6 feet away from people not part of the group.

The City Council also approved a resolution 6-2 creating a One Sioux Falls COVID-19 Action Plan for the city, calling on residents to take steps to reduce the spread and harm of COVID-19, including mask-wearing, hand hygiene, social distancing, working to improve mental and physical health and encouraging businesses to move employees to remote work.

The resolution also endorses the Safer Sioux Falls Pledge announced Tuesday by the Greater Sioux Falls Chamber of Commerce, to which businesses voluntarily pledge to take steps to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

The City Council rejected a "no lingering" ordinance for businesses in the city, similar to what the council approved for a time early in the pandemic. The City Council split on the ordinance 4-4, with Mayor TenHaken casting the tie-breaking vote to defeat the proposal.

"I don't want this hanging over the business community right now," TenHaken said. "They don't need this."