Rochester City Council passes mask mandate 6-1, businesses react

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(ABC 6 NEWS) – The Rochester City Council voted 6-1 Sunday night — requiring vaccinated and unvaccinated people to wear masks in all indoor public spaces. This upholds Mayor Kim Norton’s declaration of a local emergency from Saturday morning. The change brings a range of reactions from the community. The council acknowledged the apparent discourse many times in it’s emergency meeting — saying each member received hundreds of emails from concerned constituents.

"We’re in a no-win situation," Councilmember Nick Campion said.

Council President Brooke Carlson asked the public to understand the council’s difficult decision.

"I understand the frustration. And really wish we didn’t have to do this. None of us want to do this," Carlson said.

The mandate is in effect until 11:59pm Feb. 7 unless the council extends or rescinds the requirement. Olmsted County Public Health expects the local surge in coronavirus case numbers to peak at the end of January.

Councilmember Mark Bransford held the singular "nay" vote.

"We have missed the opportunity to work in partnership with our businesses. If we had I think we could have a mutually agreed-upon mitigation measure right now — that we wouldn’t have to be doing this," Bransford said.

Local businesses are left to encourage and enforce the mandate.

"From the customer’s side of it, there’s a lot of mixed reviews. Some are happy — some are not. There’s definitely a little bit of bad memories from the initial time we had the whole mask mandate," said Samantha Wilschek, general manager at The Canadian Honker.

New business owners like Paige Jehnke with Janky Gear are navigating this new responsibility to enforce for the first time.

"Don’t put it on employees. I don’t want my part-time employees to have to step out of their comfort-zones and make sure that everyone is safe," Jehnke said.

The mayor’s declaration of a local emergency lasts until March 7.


(ABC 6 NEWS) – The Rochester City Council has consented to Mayor Norton’s Declaration of Local Emergency, issued on January 15.

With this action, mask requirements for all indoor public spaces remain in place through 11:59 p.m. on February 7, 2022.

In the emergency meeting, Rochester City Council member Mark Bransford of Ward Two voted to not continue the citywide mask mandate.

The measure passed 6-1.



(ABC 6 NEWS) – Rochester Mayor Kim Norton has signed a declaration of local emergency Saturday requiring masks to be worn in all indoor areas accessible to the public by all individuals, regardless of their vaccination status.

The requirement will begin Sunday, January 16 at 6 a.m. and will be in effect until 11:59 p.m. on February 7, unless rescinded sooner.

In a press release from the city, it states, "This requirement is going into effect due to the rapid spread of the Omicron Variant of SARS-CoV2 in Olmsted County. Local case counts are higher than they have ever been during the course of the pandemic and is causing significant stresses for the local healthcare system, both from volume of patients as well as the level of sickness experienced by health care providers themselves….Per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), correct and consistent mask use is a critical step everyone can take to prevent getting and spreading COVID-19. Given the extreme transmissibility of the Omicron Variant, use of a surgical mask or KN95/N95 is strongly recommended because of their ability to provide higher levels of protection. Individuals can learn how to choose the best option for them based on their exposure risks on the CDC website."

Mayor Norton called an emergency order back in August 2021 when the Delta variant hit our community, requiring masks to be worn in all indoor public settings.

However, the city voted against that mandate in August, making it last only two days.

This is a developing story, follow ABC 6 NEWS for more updates.