City councils in Moorhead and St. Cloud cast divided votes Monday night against imposing temporary face-mask mandates to limit public exposure to the coronavirus in indoor, public places.
Other major cities in the state — Minneapolis, St. Paul, Duluth and Rochester — have recently endorsed the masking rules.
In Moorhead, the council voted 5-3 against the masking requirement.
Mayor Shelly Carlson instead put forth a resolution that passed unanimously to strongly encouraging mask-wearing in public places and calling for residents to get vaccinated to help the city through the current omicron outbreak that has driven infections to all-time highs.
She said she wouldn’t support amending her resolution to include the mask mandate because she didn’t think it could be enforced and would put more pressure on police responding to calls.
However, Carlson said, she made a request to Gov. Tim Walz and other top state and local officials for more help with testing supplies and other resources.
The mayor said she talked to mayors of other Minnesota cities about their stance on the matter, with Duluth and Rochester reporting they have larger enforcement teams in place to make sure mandates are followed.
After a talk with Bloomington Mayor Tim Busse, she said that a strongly worded resolution calling for masking and vaccines similar to what the Moorhead council approved may still help.
In St. Cloud, the council voted 4-2 in support of a masking requirement. It did not pass, however, because the emergency ordinance needed a supermajority vote of at least five.
Some 30 residents crowded a board room in the Stearns County Courthouse, about half of them wearing masks and the other half not wearing masks. Some held handwritten signs with slogans like, “Mask Mandate or Resign!” or “Represent us not rule over us!”
Several times during the meeting, spectators became disruptive, shouting at each other and the council. At one point before the vote, the council took a 10-minute recess in an attempt to calm tensions.
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