The Mankato City Council made the right call Monday when it approved a modified and reasonable ordinance requiring masks be worn in public indoor spaces with some exceptions.

Voting 5-2 to impose the emergency ordinance that will take effect Friday, the council gave more protection from COVID-19 to those who work, do business and have fun in the growing regional city.

There are notable exceptions that appeared to convince councilmember Jessica Hatanpa to switch her vote in favor from earlier votes against holding a public hearing on the issue. We also applaud councilors Jenn Melby-Kelley, Mike Laven, Karen Foreman and Mayor Najwa Massad for voting in favor of the requirement.

The ordinance will not be enforced strictly. Repeat offenders only face a warning and relatively low fines similar to a traffic ticket. It exempts from the mask requirement anyone inside a restaurant or bar who is seated and practicing social distancing. It also exempts gyms, movie theaters and other indoor entertainment venues as long as people social distance. The ordinance was also modified to apply to children starting at age 12 instead of age 2.

While state COVID cases and deaths are trending lower, the Mankato region has experienced a spike in cases recently. In the nine county region surrounding Mankato, cases have gone from 61 new cases for a week in early June to 276 new cases for the week that ended July 3.

The Minnesota Department of Health said the rise in Mankato-area cases was mostly due to young people going out to bars the weekend of June 12 when some restrictions were lifted.

Mankato’s high population of young people — due to five area colleges — and its status as a regional center for shopping, working and health care create a higher risk for the spread of COVID-19.

In that context the mask requirement makes good sense.

The CDC and health experts the world over say masks make a big difference in stopping the spread of the coronavirus. The Minnesota Medical Association has lauded Mankato, Edina and Rochester for passing mask ordinances.

It’s a small inconvenience for most of us. Those who have medical problems that make it difficult to wear a mask are exempt.

Protecting the public health is a key role of government. The Mankato City Council acted on that duty by passing the mask ordinance.

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