Will Rochester see another mask mandate?

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(ABC 6 News) – With COVID-19 cases still on the rise with the Omicron variant, Minneapolis and St. Paul mayors both adopted mask mandates again. But what about Rochester?

Rochester Mayor Kim Norton and city council members have been discussing this option for the city.

As Mayor, Norton can call an emergency order as she did back in August when the Delta variant hit our community, requiring masks to be worn in all indoor public settings.

"I think it’s a simple thing we could do, even for short-term, to try to help ease the burden that our healthcare providers are feeling. But again, I can’t do that without the support of the city council," Mayor Norton said.

However, the city voted against that mandate in August, making it last only two days. This could happen again if Mayor Norton decides to declare another local emergency but she doesn’t think she will do that if she does not have the support of the city council.

Norton can declare a local emergency at any time.

"But again, I don’t want to confuse the community by putting something in place for a day or two I thought that was very unfortunate that it happened last time and I don’t want to do that again until I’m sure I have the support of the city council," she said.

"Honestly, I believe that any mandate should come from the county so that it’s consistently applied across all of the cities in our county where there is commerce back and forth," Rochester City Council Member, Mark Bransford, said.

Olmsted County Public health said "The county would look to each city to issue their own mask mandates, as was done earlier in the pandemic. Individual businesses or entities can mandate mask-wearing but are also responsible for enforcing the mandate in their buildings."

After hearing from Rochester residents, most say they don’t mind wearing a mask as they have gotten used to having to wear one indoors either for work or by personal choice.

"No, I don’t think it would affect me as much as it would other people in their day-to-day," Ben Grafe, a Rochester resident, said. "It’s just something I’ve been used to from traveling for five years for work. And now it’s just become a part of it. So, it’s something you get used to."

Most agree they wouldn’t care if a mask mandate were to be put in place. However, some are sick of wearing a mask and would not want a mandate.

The Minnesota Department of Health recommends wearing a high-quality mask to limit the spread of COVID-19, especially with variants like Omicron.

In Albert Lea, Public Health Director Sue Yost said she has not asked the city of Albert Lea to consider a mask mandate but she feels it is a good idea to consider one.