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Mask order passes in Cloquet

Fewer than 24 hours later, statewide rule is put in place


July 24, 2020

Jana Peterson

The majority of shoppers at the Cloquet L&M store were wearing masks on Tuesday afternoon, but workers wearing masks inside were in the minority.

Hours after the Cloquet City Council voted to require face coverings by Aug. 1 in all public indoor spaces in the city of Cloquet, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz announced that a statewide mandate would begin Saturday.

The Cloquet City Council joined a growing number of cities issuing mask ordinances during its regular meeting Tuesday by a 5-2 vote, with councilors Kerry Kolodge and Steve Langley dissenting.

On Wednesday, Walz cited the emerging ordinances and decisions by businesses in requiring masks as part of his decision on a mandate.

Mayor Roger Maki cited Tuesday the "irrefutable" science that masks can help prevent transmission of Covid-19, noting that "even the president recognizes masks are a good thing," referring to President Trump's Monday tweet implying that wearing a mask is patriotic.

Kolodge said he would prefer the council "strongly encourage" people to wear masks. He doubts an ordinance would be enforceable. Langley didn't explain his vote.

"If people don't feel pressure - and they're feeling it less as time goes on - to protect others as well as themselves, then we need to take the strongest approach we can and express that this is a really important thing for our community," councilor Lara Wilkinson said.

Kolodge said he would prefer the council "strongly encourage" people to wear masks. He doubts an ordinance would be enforceable. Langley didn't explain his vote.

"If people don't feel pressure - and they're feeling it less as time goes on - to protect others as well as themselves, then we need to take the strongest approach we can and express that this is a really important thing for our community," councilor Lara Wilkinson said.

Confirmed Covid-19 cases in Carlton County are still low, but the numbers have grown more rapidly over the past three weeks. Over the three-week period from June 10 to July 1, the number of cases here grew by five (from 78 to 83). In contrast, from July 1 to July 22, the number of confirmed cases grew by 24, from 83 to 107. Carlton County has not reported any deaths from coronavirus yet.

The Cloquet City Council vote Tuesday followed a discussion at the previous council meeting on July 7, and similar actions by other cities including Duluth, Superior, Bemidji, Rochester and St. Cloud. Wilkinson expressed disappointment that the recommendation by scientists to wear masks has become politicized.

The two-page city ordinance explains the face covering requirement as an effort to slow the spread of virus "as face masks and other coverings can stop respiratory droplets from traveling into the air and onto other people when a person wearing the covering talks, coughs, sneezes, or raises his or her voice." Face coverings are defined as a mask, shield, N95 respirator, neck gaiter or other secured and fitted piece of material that covers the mouth and nose and fits snugly on the side of the face.

Two recent studies show that following universal mask policies reduced coronavirus transmission, including one that looked at two hair stylists who were infected but worked in a salon where both staff and customers wore face coverings. None of their 139 clients became ill.

"We are not defenseless against Covid-19," said CDC director Dr. Robert R. Redfield in an editorial published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Tuesday. "Cloth face coverings are one of the most powerful weapons we have to slow and stop the spread of the virus – particularly when used universally within a community setting. All Americans have a responsibility to protect themselves, their families, and their communities."

Many stores in town have already implemented mask requirements, from small local stores like Bergquists, Buskala's and the Fond du Lac Gas & Grocery to larger grocery stores including Walmart and Super One. Walgreens implemented a facemask mandate this week and Aldi stores will begin requiring masks beginning Monday.

B&B Market owners John and Kim Lind were not requiring masks at the popular gas and grocery store (where the food donation train has slowed but is still rolling) but said they would enforce the mandate if the vote passed.

"Businesses that already require masks want that help and support. It's imperative that we don't have to close down again," councilor Sheila Lamb said.

Chris Swanson agreed with the need to be proactive.

"That's a move worth the inconvenience when we go into places of public accommodation to wear a mask," he said. "For most people it's not the end of the world, and there are some exceptions to the policy."

Those exceptions, similar to the state mandate, include the following:

• People under the age of 10;

• Those who can't wear a mask for medical reasons;

• People in a private room in a multi-tenant residence;

• Business patrons who are eating or drinking (but they must wear a mask while walking to and from their seat or through public areas);

• Business owners and employees in an area not open to the public, provided there is at least six feet of distance between people;

• Education, childcare facilities and fitness centers with written plans in compliance with state guidelines;

• In places where it isn't feasible to wear a face covering like at the office of a dentist or doctor, or while swimming or participating in athletic activities;

• Police officers and firefighters and other first responders when it isn't practical.

"I've had requests to propose other exceptions, but that would negate the idea of the mandate and potentially expose people to aerosolized Covid-19," Swanson said. "We are all potential carriers and we are all potentially at risk too."

Councilor Bun Carlson asked that the city not implement the mandate until Aug. 1, and that it be lifted when the governor's emergency declaration related to the pandemic is lifted.

City administrator Tim Peterson said people would need to voluntarily comply with and enforce the ordinance. Calling the police needs to be a last resort, he said.

Lamb stressed that Carlton County has yet to see anyone die from the disease but the number of positive cases since the disease arrived four months ago sat at 105 on Tuesday.

"These are our friends, neighbors and relatives," she said, pointing out that Cloquet has an aging population. "The loss of even one person is going to have a profound effect."

According to the resolution and city code, penalties for not complying with the order range from a warning letter to fines of $50-$100 for public nuisance or civil trespass and/or misdemeanor charges.

Other business

In other matters Tuesday, the council took the following actions:

• Approved the appointment of Adam Reed as investigative commander, a role he's been filling on an interim basis for several months in the Cloquet Police Department. Following the application process, police chief Derek Randall said Reed was the unanimous choice.

• Unanimously passed a new "inflow and infiltration" ordinance to address mostly clean rainwater that enters the sewer system as required by the Western Lake Superior Sanitary District of all its member communities. As proposed, the new program would require an inspection of all homes being sold for illegally connected sump pumps and footing drains funneling unpolluted (rain, groundwater, roof runoff, etc.) water into the sewer system. If detected, a homeowner would have 120 days to fix the issue or face a monthly surcharge added to their water bill. The ordinance takes effect for homes sold after Sept. 1.

The city will offer a grant program for homeowners who need to upgrade or repair leaky or decaying lateral sewer lines running from the home to main sewer lines. The program offers financial assistance.


Masks still a choice - for now

Although many other stores in Cloquet are already requiring masks, L&M was still leaving the decision up to customers and staff members as of Tuesday.

The results have been mixed.

Jana Peterson

Andy Tuttle says he wears a mask to help protect others.

A 10-minute, non-scientific count of customers entering L&M Fleet Supply Tuesday afternoon showed 25 people wearing masks and only six without. A count of people exiting the store during the same timeframe showed 22 wearing (or carrying) masks and 15 with no mask in evidence. The majority of staff members encountered in a walk around the store were not wearing masks or face shields, although there are partial plexiglass barriers in the check-out lanes between the cashiers and the customers.

Customers Andy and Jalyna Tuttle were both wearing masks for what looked like a significant shopping trip. What does it hurt people to wear a mask while they're shopping, asked Andy, pictured above.

"It's not my life I'm worried about, it's my parents, who are in their 70s," he said. "It was seven days from diagnosis to death for my aunt when she got Covid. It's a lonely death, because you die by yourself. If I can help someone not die by wearing a mask, I guess I'll wear a mask."

- Jana Peterson / Pine Knot News


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