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Rochester, MN (KROC-AM News) - Rochester has joined a growing number of communities in requiring the use of face masks or other coverings to curtail the spread of COVID-19.

The Rochester City Council voted 6-1 this afternoon to ratify an emergency order signed by Mayor Kim Norton to mandate the wearing of masks by everyone in almost all indoor public places. City Council President Randy Staver cast the lone dissenting vote.

The order takes effect Wednesday and will remain in effect through September 4th. It could be renewed at that time, or it could be canceled before then through a vote by the City Council or the expiration of Governor Tim Walz’s peacetime pandemic emergency.

Violating the order is not a criminal offense, but a person violating the mandate and refusing to leave a business or other indoor public setting could be cited for trespassing. Businesses that fail to enforce the order could face administrative actions related to their city-issued licenses.

Mayor Norton, who appeared this morning on News-Talk 1340 KROC-AM and 96.9 FM during the Rochester Today Show, says her decision to issue the order mandating face masks was tied to the city's Rochester Ready initiative. The public-private effort was launched as a way to provide assurances to Mayo Clinic patients and other visitors that local businesses and the city are doing all they can to keep them as safe as possible while they are in Rochester receiving healthcare and helping revive the economy.

Norton noted that she has fielded a number of calls and has received other communications from Mayo Clinic visitors who were surprised that Rochester was not requiring masks or other face coverings during the ongoing pandemic.

Here are the details of the mandatory mask order in Rochester, MN:

All individuals shall wear a face-covering in indoor areas accessible to the public and while riding in any public bus unless exempted, as follows:

  • Restaurants and Bars must include in their COVID-19 Preparedness Plan that all customers wear a face covering when not seated at their table.
  • Retail Businesses must include in their COVID-19 Preparedness Plan that all employees wear a face covering when the individual is within any area open to the public or within six feet of another customer are required to wear a face-covering before entering the retail business and must wear the face-covering until exiting the retail business.
  • Public Transportation users are required to wear a face-covering before boarding a bus and wear the face-covering until the user exits the bus.
  • Gyms, Fitness Centers, and Sports Facilities participants, staff, and spectators are required to wear a face-covering at all times when the individual is within six feet of another For purposes of this Order, pools, trampoline parks, gymnastics facilities, hockey/skating arenas, and climbing walls are considered Sports Facilities.
  • Entertainment Venue users are required to wear a face-covering when the user is within six feet of another When the user is seated and not within six feet of a person they can remove the face covering, but must wear the face-covering when walking to or from their seat and while standing in or walking through public areas such as lobbies and restrooms.

Exemptions: This Order does not apply to:

  • Facilities operated by the County, State or Federal Government.
  • Personal Care Services/Salons that already have State face-covering requirements.
  • Medical facilities that already have face-covering requirements
  • Children two years of age or younger
  • Individuals actively eating or drinking
  • Individuals temporarily removing the face covering for identification purposes.
  • Individuals unable to wear a face-covering due to medical, disability, or developmental reasons.
  • Individuals speaking to an audience, whether in person or through broadcast, as long as the speaker remains six feet or more away from other individuals.
  • Individuals speaking to someone who is deaf or hard of hearing and requires the mouth to be visible to communicate.
  • Participants in youth sports are exempt from this Order but subject to all requirements under the State’s Executive Orders.

Enforcement: Violation of this Order is not a criminal offense. However:

  • Any individual who fails to comply with this Order will be asked to leave by an authorized representative of the business or organization. If the individual continues to refuse to leave, law enforcement may enforce trespassing laws or any other law the individual may Businesses and organizations may rely on an individual’s statements if they claim to be exempt from the Order due to medical, disability, or developmental reasons.
  • Any business violating this Order shall be subject to administrative action for any licenses they possess with the City.

Businesses and organizations are encouraged to provide masks for customers at no or nominal cost. Restaurants and bars are encouraged to take advantage of outdoor seating.

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