Duluth City Councilors Have Tense First Debate About New Mask Mandate

DULUTH, Minn. – The mask mandate debate is firing back up in Duluth and being fueled by Councilor Terese Tomanek.  But the push for a mandate was not received well Thursday evening at the agenda session by the majority of the council after some felt surprised by the topic, which wasn’t on the list of items to discuss ahead of Monday’s first city council meeting of the year.

“We’re not telling people what to do. We’re looking to work with them, and that’s where I stand,” said Councilor Derek Medved.

“[Is the] county going to have some data? When do we get to hear all that?” asked Council Janet Kennedy.

“What have you done to work with the mayor or the governor on getting this on a statewide level so everyone is taking this as seriously as we are?” asked Councilor Roz Randorf. “Does the mayor want to do it?”

“I can’t speak for the mayor,” Tomanek replied, who also said she was not in contact with the Governor’s Office.

“I’ll yield,” Randorf followed.

(To watch the full exchange about this topic, click here and go to 35:05 on the timeline)

This debate comes as Minneapolis and St. Paul issued a new indoor mask mandate Thursday and one day after Duluth Mayor Emily Larson’s office said there were no immediate plans for a new mask mandate across the city.

Councilor Tomanek stood firm on her stance throughout the agenda session saying the city needs a mask mandate more than ever right now with the virus spreading faster again and hospitals stressed out with too many COVID patients.

“I don’t see the value in waiting when more and more people are going to get sick and die. More businesses are going to have to restrict their hours,” Tomanek said. “If this will help keep our kids in school by wearing a simple mask over their face and their families doing the same.”

One of the newest members of the council, Mike Mayou, said he’s fully behind a new mask mandate Thursday night, while some councilors were more vague on where they stand, and others saying there hasn’t been enough input and discussion with the business community and general citizens — leaving too many unanswered questions on such a sensitive topic.

One councilor who did not want to be named told FOX 21 that in order to vote on a mask mandate city wide, the city council needs to first declare that another public health emergency exists, which requires a unanimous vote.

The public and business community are encouraged to speak up by emailing the council (council@duluthmn.gov) before Monday’s council meeting at 7 p.m., and also voice their opinions during the meeting’s opportunity for citizens to be heard.

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