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Chamber reports that Grand Marais City Council acted on mask request

Jul 09, 2020 11:48AM ● By Editor
By Jim Boyd from the Cook County Chamber of Commerce - July 9, 2020

As you will recall, the Grand Marais Business Coalition made a formal request that Grand Marais city government impose a COVID-19 related facemask requirement. The request was that masks be required within all public buildings, within all private buildings that provide "public accommodations" -- a term that means provides meals, lodging, retail sales, professional services, etc -- and all areas out of doors where practicing social distancing is not possible -- such as standing in lines to await take-out food orders.

The City Council heard our request last night and had a lengthy discussion, following which the council took two actions:

1. It voted to send a letter to Gov. Tim Walz requesting that he impose a set of facemask rules that would be uniform across Minnesota. From the discussion, it was unclear whether the council actually was requesting that masks be required statewide or simply that Walz set some sort of rule that applies to everyone uniformly. That issue will get resolved as the letter actually is written.

2. The council asked that the city attorney, Chris Hood, provide it with information on city mask ordinances that are being developed by Rochester and Duluth. The Rochester model apparently relies more on moral authority than legal enforcement, while the Duluth ordinance involves actual penalties.

An interesting issue illustrating how complicated this can get: If the city enacts an ordinance, at what level should enforcement be focused: On requiring that every business have a mask requirement or on ensuring that everyone entering a business wear a mask?

My own enforcement view reflects the perspective that City Council Member Anton Moody reflected in his comments: We have speed limits that are not always enforced, but most of us still respect and obey them. I think that is right; the emphasis should be on invoking the authority of the city to persuade businesses to require and customers to wear masks. Actual enforcement is going to be a rare issue where someone very flagrantly defies the mandate or causes a confrontation that requires the presence of law enforcement.

City Council Member Kelly Swearingen said she has the impression that city business people are conflicted over the mask issue and want the council to settle the argument for them. Overall, that may be the case, but support for a city mask requirement was unanimous among the business folk who attended last Monday's business coalition meeting.

This issue should be back before the council in a couple of weeks. In the meantime, you may wish to contact City Council members and weigh in on whether you support a city-issues mask mandate. I think everyone would prefer that the governor impose a statewide mask standard, but until he does, should cities and counties act to impose their own requirements? Those who usually attend our business coalition meetings were adamant in their affirmative answer to that question.

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