Duluth Becomes First City in Northland to Approve Mask Mandate for Indoor Public Places

Duluth City Council voted unanimously to require masks indoors in public, with penalties for businesses and individuals that don't comply.

DULUTH, Minn.- Duluth is now the first city in the Northland to require masks in all public indoor spaces to stop the spread of the Coronavirus, after City Council voted unanimously to pass the historic ordinance Monday night, effective immediately.

Face coverings will now be required in such places as retail spaces, DTA buses, the Skywalk, and in apartment building common areas such as hallways and elevators. In bars and restaurants masks are required, except when eating or drinking at your seat. The full ordinance can be found here.

This mask mandate has spurred intense discussion and debate citywide. Both St. Luke’s and Essentia Hospitals as well as the Nurses Association have joined those who have written to Council in support.

Superior City Council also discussed a similar mask mandate Monday night, FOX 21’s CJ Baumgartner has more on that here.

Duluth’s historic ordinance comes as new cases of COVID-19 in St. Louis County are not backing down by any means.

“It’s something that we have to do to protect the safety of all of us. we wear seat belts when we drive, we wear shoes and a shirt when we go into stores, the new normal is that we will be wearing masks indoors,” said Councilor-At-Large Terese Tomanek. “We can no longer just pretend that this is not going to affect our community and we have to remember that one mask can save one life.”

Having the city require masks, rather than placing responsibility on individual businesses, is another reasons councilors supported the ordinance.

“I know so many people that say ‘I can’t go into a business and feel safe if they’re not wearing masks as employees and if other patrons aren’t wearing masks,” Tomanek said. “If we don’t slow or stop the spread of COVID, our businesses are going to have to shut down again and that would be incredibly detrimental.”

There are penalties for businesses that don’t enforce the mask rule, and for individuals who don’t comply.

For businesses, the first offense results in a fine of $100, followed by $250 for the second offense, and $1,000 for any violations after that.

For Councilor Derek Medved, a business owner of convenience stores and gas stations, the punishments made voting yes a hard decision. “It was kind of presented that, it kind of had teeth. That was one thing as a business owner I did not appreciate.”

“I think the council could’ve approved it a little bit better with a little bit with more welcome and really kind of a clear message to work with business owners and community members,” he said. “That, ‘y’know we’re not looking to punish anybody we’re not here to enforce or bend your arm, we’re here to work with you’.”

Still, he voted yes in the interest of public safety. “That’s the job and the task for me is to really understand both sides of it and what is the goal — and that is health,” said Medved.

Any individual who fails to cover their face may also be removed from the property, and if they do not leave or comply, they are subject to prosecution for trespassing.

There are exceptions to the new rule.

For example, a mask is not required for business owners, managers, and employees in an area not open to the public, if you are actively participating in organized athletic competitions or practices, or if you are unable to wear face coverings for genuine medical reasons.

Education and childcare facilities and fitness centers with written plans in compliance with state guidelines are also exempt.

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