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Mayors of Rapid City and Sioux Falls speak out on wearing masks



Rapid City Mayor Steve Allender

RAPID CITY – During a COVID-19 briefing, Mayor Steve Allender announced that city employees and the public will be required to wear masks to city meetings and facilities.

“For eight months now we have been monitoring and responding to the impacts of the COVID pandemic on our community as well as on city operations,” said Mayor Allender. “The pandemic is progressing and present circumstances demand we take a more aggressive approach to protecting our customers and employees at this time.”

City facilities will remain open but a new set of guidelines will be in place for employees and the public who choose to visit these facilities. Masks will be enforced especially with all face-to-face interactions between employees and the public. Mayor Allender also asked that all city employees limit their social times in public.

Masks will be provided for employees and the public who do not have masks, but Mayor Allender stressed that there are alternatives available to the public instead of attending in person. He urged the public to submit comments for meetings online, set up automatic online bill payment systems for utility bills, and conduct general business over the phone, email, and other online options.

His request to submit comments for public meetings can be done at www.rcgov.org and should be done before noon the day of the meeting for city council and before 8 am the day of the meetings of legal and finance and public works committee meetings. Additionally, comments should be submitted before 3:30 pm the day before the meeting for planning board/zoning commission meetings. Comments submitted to these meetings will be made part of the official meeting record.

The announcement came just weeks after Mayor Allender announced that a city-wide mask mandate is not being seriously considered at this time due to fiscal and resource considerations. He also criticized the only local government in South Dakota that implemented a mask mandate, Brookings, South Dakota, by saying that adherence to the mandate was minimal and infections have not gone down.

’Wear a dang mask when you’re indoors — we’re not asking you to sign up for a draft here,” Sioux Falls Mayor Paul TenHaken said. TenHaken was fed up with the way the state has been addressing the pandemic.

The COVID-19 pandemic is reaching all-time high numbers in the State of South Dakota and in Pennington County. The state is regularly reporting record breaking numbers of new infections of around or near 1,000 per day.

South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem’s resistance to implement infection diversion tactics has led to pressure on local governments and local business owners to implement their own safety measures. Other states have implemented safety measures like stay-at-home orders, curfews, and mask mandates, but with states recording record numbers nation-wide, these measures have been criticized.

 

(Contact Travis at travisdewes@gmail.com)

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