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City council members weigh in on potential city-wide mask mandate

As with any issue, politicians have differing viewpoints. When it comes to a city-wide mask mandate, members of the Rapid City city council are no different.
The Rapid City city council meets Thursday for a special council meeting to discuss...
The Rapid City city council meets Thursday for a special council meeting to discuss implementing a city-wide mask mandate.(Miranda O'Bryan)
Published: Nov. 18, 2020 at 4:53 PM MST
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KEVN) - The Rapid City city council meets Thursday for a special council meeting to discuss implementing a city-wide mask mandate.

The mayor’s office sent out the proposed emergency ordinance Wednesday, which would require the wearing of face coverings in certain situations to slow the community spread of COVID-19.

That means masks would be required in any enclosed facility such as bars, restaurants, and grocery stores. People exempt from the ordinance would be children under five, anyone eating or drinking or receiving medical care. The penalty could range anywhere from one dollar to $500. Thursday will be the ordinances first reading and if passed would be in effect until January 1st.

As with any issue, politicians have differing viewpoints. When it comes to a city-wide mask mandate, members of the Rapid City city council are no different.

“My thinking right now is what we are doing today, is not working,” said Ritchie Nordstrom, city council, ward 2. “So, we have to do something.”

“And I don’t feel that it’s going to accomplish what people want, unfortunately,” said Lance Lehmann, city council, ward 4. “There’s a time and a place to wear masks and that’s an individual’s right and freedom to choose.”

Both Lehmann and Nordstrom have heard from their constituents, who offer opinions for and against. But Nordstrom said he’ll support the ordinance to protect his district.

“A lot of people that are in the blue-collar and a lot of lower-income people and they are the most susceptible. Having people wear a mask is only going to help them and us within the community,” said Nordstrom. “So, a mask is protecting you and it is protecting me.”

Lehmann said for him and his district, it’s about being educated and making a personal choice. He said enforcing something like this isn’t feasible.

“One of the bigger issues I’m really having is enforcement of it,” said Lehmann. “I really struggle, currently, none of my business owners in my district understand we can’t, or we don’t enforce trespassing ordinances, so now we’re going to arrest grandma for not wearing a mask? It just seems a little foolish to be pushing this on the books.”

Council members Laura Armstrong and John Roberts also gave written responses to the potential mask mandate.

Armstrong said, “We do not want to shut businesses down and we all desperately want to get back to normal. The best solution, for the time being, is simply to wear a mask in public.”

Whereas Roberts said, “I believe in mask-wearing wherever and whenever appropriate. A mask mandate, however, is not the answer.”

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