Rochester Mayor Kim Norton signed an amendment to the city’s existing emergency declaration on Saturday, requiring individuals to wear face masks in city facilities.
“The City of Rochester is committed to supporting the health and safety of our community and teammates, as we continue to provide important City services,” Norton said in a statement released Saturday evening.
As with any emergency declaration by the mayor, the Rochester City Council must affirm it in order for it to continue more than three days. The council is expected to be asked for support of the change when it meets at 3:30 p.m. Monday.
While the council has been meeting remotely since March, Council President Randy Staver and Council Member Shaun Palmer have been attending meetings in the government center, along with select members of city staff needed to operate the meeting. Staver and Palmer have sat more than 6 feet apart during the meetings, but have not worn masks.
It was unclear in Saturday's announcement whether the mask mandate extends to facilities shared by the city and county, and whether city facilities include buildings owned by the city but operated by another entity.
The new requirement does come with strong encouragement for people to wear face coverings and for businesses to require them, according to Saturday's release.
“I hope community members begin to or resume wearing face coverings. (Businesses) also have an opportunity to support this by making face coverings a requirement," Norton said in the statement. "If COVID-9 cases increase, I fear the state will need to turn the dial back, which is in the opposite direction of what we need to re-energize our economy and enjoy time with family and friends."
On Friday, Norton indicated in Facebook posts that she is looking into adding a citywide face-mask requirement, but needed more data to sway council members.
"Of course science says masking will help, but that isn’t convincing enough for them," she wrote in response to a question on the issue. "So, I’m having the (emergency operations center) collecting local infection rate and other data that will demonstrate why a local mandate is warranted. ... I have exactly one firm 'yes' vote to date."
The city’s COVID-19 Information Hotline can be reached at 507-328-2822 between 9 a.m. and 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday. The city's website also has information focused on COVID-19.