Brookings City Council mandates masks in public places


Andrew Rasmussen, Reporter

The Brookings City Council voted to mandate masks in public where 6-foot social distancing is not possible during Tuesday’s city council meeting.

The 5-2 vote comes after more than three hours of public input from both sides of the issue. The meeting took place at the Swiftel Center to accommodate proper social distancing after roughly 250 Brookings residents attended the first reading in the City Council chambers.

“Within the City of Brookings, all persons … must wear a face mask/face covering in indoor businesses and indoor public places where six foot social distancing cannot be achieved or maintained,” the ordinance read.

There are several exemptions to the mandate including: “Children five and under, private vehicles and residences, eating and drinking when seated, educational institutions that have implemented protections, places of worship,” according to the ordinance.

South Dakota State University and the Brookings School District are exempt from the ordinance due to their COVID-19 restrictions already implemented.

University administration supported the ordinance at both its first and second readings.

“This virus behaves differently than the common cold,” Mary Anne Krogh, SDSU dean of nursing, said. “I wear a mask to protect others.”

Also speaking in favor of the ordinance was Daniel Scholl, vice president for the Division of Research and Economic Development at SDSU. President Barry Dunn also spoke in favor at the first reading.

“I want to make it clear that masks make a difference,” Dr. Sarah Smith, a family medicine doctor at Avera in Brookings, said. “I urge the Brookings City Council to listen to science and do what is right for our community.”

Councilors Leah Brink and Joey Collins cast the dissenting votes.

“If the mask mandate passes tonight, I encourage you to follow it,” Brink said. She then added she does not support the mandate but will follow it if it passes.

Both Brink and Collins echoed the sentiments of the many speakers citing personal freedom and choice as the reasoning for their votes.

“I happen to think mask-wearing is a path to normalcy,” Councilor Nick Wendell said.

Campus policies regarding COVID-19 were much of the discussion from both residents and councilors.

“SDSU and the Brookings school systems are requiring masks and so should we,” City Councilor Ope Niemeyer said.