St. Cloud, Moorhead reject mask mandates

St. Cloud city office
The St. Cloud City Council voted against issuing a temporary mask mandate, despite local health care provider CentraCare urging the city to do so.
Conrad Wilson for MPR News 2012

Two Minnesota cities failed to enact citywide mask requirements on Monday night.

The city councils in Moorhead and St. Cloud both voted down proposals to temporarily require masking up in indoor public places.

Several other Minnesota cities have adopted mask mandates, including Minneapolis, St. Paul, Duluth, Hopkins, Golden Valley, Rochester and Minnetonka.

The St. Cloud City Council voted 4-to-2 to approve a three-week mandate. But the emergency ordinance required a supermajority vote, so it failed to pass.

Health care provider CentraCare recently urged St. Cloud-area officials to pass a six-week mask mandate, due to a surge of COVID-19 cases that are overwhelming its system. The region’s test positivity rate is over 30 percent.

The mayors of St. Cloud and other area cities declined, opting instead to issue a letter urging area residents to wear masks.

At Monday night's meeting, St. Cloud City Council member Carol Lewis proposed requiring masks in public places until Feb. 15.

“Our medical community is asking for our help,” Lewis said. “And I think it's incumbent upon us to help them out.”

Debate over the proposal was heated, with audience members at times interrupting the meeting. At one point, a 10-minute recess was called to quiet the crowd.

City Council Member George Hontos said the St. Cloud-area mayors had turned their backs on CentraCare by rejecting their request.

“We're faced with a difficult situation. No one wants to be here,” Hontos said. “I'm certain that the medical community does not want to be where they're at today, with the difficulties they've had. And I don't know why we cannot overlook our personal opinions — our political opinions — and just take one for the team.”

St. Cloud Mayor Dave Kleis didn't get a vote on the mandate, but he argued against it, saying he doesn’t think it’s the city's role to require masks.

"We cherish in this country, our freedom. But we also understand individual responsibility,” Kleis said. “The city mandating it, I believe, is not the right direction to go."

The Moorhead City Council also rejected a mask mandate on a 5-to-3 vote, instead passing a resolution strongly encouraging mask-wearing. 

Mayor Shelly Carlson said the overtaxed police department would not be able to enforce a mask mandate.  

"My biggest concern is issuing a mandate where there is no enforcement,” she said. “That isn't good governance, when you state that you want your citizens to do one thing, but that you're not going to enforce it.

"Fargo, just across the Red River from Moorhead, does not have a mask requirement. Carlson said a mandate might cause Moorhead businesses to lose customers to Fargo. 

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