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FD City Council says mask up

Mandate passes on 5-2 vote

Face masks that are already a common sight throughout Fort Dodge are now required in most public spaces thanks to a mandate approved Monday by the City Council.

The council voted 5-2 to pass the mandate, even though City Attorney Mark Crimmins told the elected officials that it cannot be enforced.

Councilman Neven Conrad, who wrote the resolution, described it as “unfortunately, a necessity in my view.”

He said he hoped that some higher level of government would enact such a mandate so that the City Council would not have to do so. But the state and county governments have not done so. Meanwhile, the number of infections continues to rise dramatically.

“We’re seeing cases skyrocket,” Conrad said. “There’s no light at the end of the tunnel.”

“A mask is one of the only available tools we have at our disposal to slow this thing down,” he added. “I’m scared of where we’re at. I’m scared of our trajectory. At least I’m not scared to try this.”

During the meeting, 16 people addressed the council, including two doctors and two long-term care facility administrators. All but two of them were in favor of the mask mandate.

Megan Secor, of Fort Dodge, told the council that 1,150 people have signed her petition calling for a mask mandate.

Carol Barber, of Fort Dodge, said she strongly supported a mask mandate,

“We really need you to protect us right now,” she told the elected officials.

According to Dr, Megan Sirinvas, about 50 percent of COVID-19 transmission results from people who are infected but are showing no symptoms.

“This is why masks are so critical,” she said.

Research shows that masks effectively reduce transmission of COVID-19. according to Sirinvas.

Dr. Lincoln Wallace told the council, “If this helps even a little bit, I think it’s worth doing.”

Julie Thorson, chief executive officer of Friendship Haven, said passing a mask mandate is “sending a strong message to our community that this is serious.”

Nevin Mulholland, a Fort Dodge attorney, expressed his support for the mandate.

“The fact of the matter is, we have a crisis,” he said. “We absolutely need a mask mandate.”

He asserted that the mandate is enforceable and added that his law firm would defend the city in court for free if any legal challenges are filed against the mandate.

“Let’s lawyer up,” Mulholland said. “My firm is all in.”

After the council heard the public comments and before it debated the measure, Crimmins offered his opinion. He said the mask mandate resolution has no enforcement provision.

He said he advised Police Chief Roger Porter that the Police Department cannot enforce the mandate.

“They can’t do anything because there’s not a law on the books that says you can enforce this,” he said. “If you don’t wear a mask you can’t be stopped and you can’t get a ticket.”

Councilmen Kim Alstott and Dave Flattery said they were against the measure because it can’t be enforced.

Councilman Andy Fritz initially agreed with them.

“There is no teeth to this,” Fritz said.

Councilwoman Lydia Schuur said she supported the mandate.

“I support what is happening here tonight,” she said. “To talk about personal responsibility and protecting our neighbor is laughable because people aren’t doing it.”

As they announced that they were opposed to the mandate, Alstott, Flattery and Fritz all said that they have empathy for people who lost loved ones to COVID-19 or have been sick with the disease. Schuur challenged them to demonstrate their empathy.

“If you have all this empathy, show that,” she said “Vote yes.”

Councilman Jeff Halter said that without an enforcement provision, the measure doesn’t violate anyone’s rights. He said he would therefore support it. He added that showing unity is important at this time.

Fritz then asked Alstott and Flattery to join him in voting for the mandate to show that the council was united on a divisive issue. They declined to do so.

The measure passed with Councilman Terry Moehnke, Conrad, Fritz, Halter and Schuur voting yes. Alstott and Flattery voted no.


Summary of the mask mandate in FD

The mask mandate resolution approved by the Fort Dodge City Council Monday states that a person must wear a face covering in these situations:

• In public, as opposed to one’s place of residence, when one cannot stay six feet apart from others.

• Inside any public settings, including but not limited to grocery stores, pharmacies, retail stores, common areas of businesses that are accessible to the public and where six feet of social distancing is not possible.

• Other public settings that are not one’s place of residence and when among other people who do not live in the same household.

• City buildings.

• Outside if maintaining a distance of six feet apart is not possible.

• Using public transportation or private car services including taxis, ride share or car pooling.

“No business that is open to the public may provide service to a customer or allow a customer to enter its premsies unless the customer is wearing a face covering as required by this resolution, and businesses that are open to the public are encouraged to post notice signs at the entrances instructing customers of their obligation to wear a face covering while inside,” the resolution states.

Exemptions to the mask mandate are included for children younger than 3 and people with various medical conditions. People who are running, exercising or participating in sports would also be exempt.

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