Rochester City Council votes to end mask mandate

[anvplayer video=”5051349″ station=”998128″]

(ABC 6 News) – In a five to two vote Thursday, Rochester City Council voted to rescind Mayor Kim Norton’s mask mandate.

In a sudden change of events, the Rochester City Council has voted against extending Mayor Norton’s Declaration of Local Emergency.

That local emergency required everyone to wear a face mask in indoor public spaces with children or vulnerable adults present.

But, that all changed with a 5 to 2 vote during the emergency meeting. Rochester City Council voted that we no longer are required to wear face masks when out in public, with the requirement being government buildings. Despite ending the mask mandate, one thing was clear, as the delta variant spreads, the city wants to find a new way to better protect the community.

"We’re going to have to figure out how to rely on people to do the right thing as the data demands of them," Nick Campion, Rochester City Council member said.

It was a quick vote. Only two members voted to extend the emergency declaration order. City Council President Brooke Carlson and city council member Molly Dennis.

Everyone else said no.

"I know that we are here in a pandemic and it’s an emergency order which by its nature is reactive to what’s going on around us but I consider what’s around us is poor public policy," Patrick Keane, Rochester City Council member said.

Mayor Norton declared the mask mandate earlier this week citing the rising cases in Olmsted County. She says she was disappointed with the outcome.

"The order was filed with the best of intentions in meeting all of your needs," Mayor Norton said. "I think Med City USA should be the safest place to ensure any patient that comes here and any child that comes here won’t get COVID-19."

One of the sticking points for council members who voted against the extension was the language. The majority of members said it was simply too vague.

"It was loosely worded and unenforceable. It was a bit hasty, not that the intent was bad it’s just the contents made it virtually impossible to enforce," Mark Bransford, Rochester City Council member said.

Brooke Carlson said before the vote, that she wants to see more work done to protect people in the community.

"I have struggled and struggled and struggled with this because I have young children I’m a public health professional, ultimately I support some action," Carlson said.

And even with the mask mandate ending, Mayor Norton said the people that voted on this, care about the community.

"While we have a difference about how we believe this should be moved forward, every single city council member cares about this community and you heard that as you were listening," Mayor Norton said.

Outside the chambers listening to the discussion were community members. Some holding up signs. One saying, "Medical Freedom, No Mandates."

The people I spoke to in Rochester agree with the city council’s votes.

"Nobody’s wearing a mask. As an individual, you have to respect people’s opinions," Rochester resident Kacui Kamara said.

Another person I spoke to in the downtown area agrees.

"I’m glad it’s over, I think it’s good for the economy, I think it’s good for gatherings like this and I’m glad it’s passed," Rochester resident Robert Kaiser said.

Even though the emergency declaration is not being extended, the city council did vote to pass a resolution.

Meaning that while it’s not required, it’s highly recommended that people get vaccinated if they haven’t been already.

And, it’s recommended that people wear a mask indoors to help protect kids under 12 and medically vulnerable people.