The Free Press
MANKATO — A majority of area respondents say they would support a temporary ordinance requiring masks to be worn in Mankato to stave off COVID-19 from spreading, according to a Free Press online question.
Out of 746 total respondents, 522 voters — almost 70% — would support the ordinance proposed by the Mankato City Council. Only 224 voters disagreed.
The council is debating whether to enact a 60-day ordinance requiring people to wear masks in public after Council member Karen Foreman brought the issue up earlier this month.
Because the issue was not on the agenda of last week’s meeting and specific ordinance was before the council, a vote could not legally be held. But council members could vote to direct staff to prepare a draft ordinance and schedule a special meeting for today to fast-track the process. That’s what Melby-Kelley proposed.
Only two of the seven council members offered strong opinions on the idea — Jenn Melby-Kelley in favor and Mark Frost opposed — but Mayor Najwa Massad, Council President Mike Laven and Foreman joined Melby-Kelley in calling the special meeting. Council members Jessica Hatanpa and Dennis Dieken sided with Frost in opposition, falling short of immediately blocking the prospect of an ordinance on a 4-3 vote.
Several more steps would be required before Mankato would join Minneapolis, St. Paul and the state of California, among many others, in requiring face coverings.
The specific ordinance needs to be drafted, which City Manager Pat Hentges said could happen by today if it was based on the Minneapolis ordinance.
The council, after reviewing the ordinance at tonight’s meeting, would need to vote to schedule a public hearing — most likely on July 13 — and notify the public. A process for public input would need to be designed that would allow all interested parties to have their say while not violating pandemic-related restrictions on large gatherings.
And, finally, a majority of the council — after the public hearing is completed — would need to favor adopting the mask requirement, which would be an emergency ordinance effective for 60 days.
The Free Press online question, sent out Friday, asked “Would you support an ordinance requiring people to wear masks in Mankato for the next few months?”
There were two options to answer, “yes” or “no.”
Most commenters supported mandating masks for the time being, though some people were opposed to wearing masks in public. Critics claim the mandate wouldn’t be easily enforceable or would infringe on individual rights.
“First it was stay at home to flatten the curve,” Sam Smithwick wrote. “Fine, we stayed at home, curve flattened. Now it’s wear a mask or else. Next will be you have to get the vaccine. This goes against the liberty of individual choices. No city council can tell me what I have to wear or not wear, not now, not ever.”
Samantha South wrote, “I do not support this. As someone who shops in Mankato, and visits regularly from New Ulm, I will not continue to come if this is required. Think of the business owners who have already lost so much.”
Gary Lindsay wrote, “There should never be a rule which can’t be enforced. Our police have better things to do than to check to see if people are wearing a mask. Most people do practice social distancing in town quite well. It is the bar hoppers and protesters that are making the numbers go up. Control those crowds.”
Supporters pointed out wearing a mask doesn’t infringe upon rights but is rather a community-oriented response designed to prevent others from contracting the coronavirus.
“Wearing a mask is a small inconvenience that could help,” Kirsten Freitag wrote. “Perhaps an ordinance would help people take this seriously. Hopefully the ordinance would be reasonable when it comes to people outside working, biking or walking in the summer heat, when not in close proximity to other people not from their own household.”
Patricia Hylen wrote, “Those who don’t wear a mask are being selfish about protecting themselves and others. It is sacrificing health and income of everyone in our city and state. Make it mandatory please for everyone’s safety.”
“It still amazes me that people say it should be their choice to not were a mask,” Brian Frederick wrote. “They just don’t understand that it’s for the safety of others. There are many laws and rules we must follow to protect our fellow humans. Wearing a mask is a very small inconvenience for the protection it provides.”
Phyllis Haefner wrote, “Having lived through the shortages of the second world war, wearing a mask in a public place sounds easy. When I remember my 18-year-old brother fighting in Germany, how can I say wearing a mask is asking too much from me. Shame on everyone who thinks only of their comfort and not the good of others.”
Marti Weisgram wrote, “Wearing a mask is such a simple way to say you care about others. We need to take this virus seriously and stop rationalizing behavior that endangers others. For those who think God will protect them, the good Lord would want us to use our common sense and wear a mask.”