BROOKINGS – The Brookings City Council approved Resolution 21-024 by a 6-1 vote Tuesday.
The city’s mask mandate, along with COVID-19-related business guidelines which were previously required by ordinance, are now recommendations.
Councilor Leah Brink was the dissenting vote.
City Manager Paul Briseno said the resolution that transitions the mask mandate into a recommendation goes into effect immediately.
The resolution is in place for 60 days, “at which time it shall be automatically repealed unless specifically readopted for an additional period of time by the City Council,” according to the document attached to the council agenda.
COVID-19 cases in Brookings County continue to decline, but the county is still in substantial spread, Briseno said.
The city has a COVID vaccine survey at cityofbrookings-sd.gov, hoping to gather more information from the public, he said.
The council had discussed the resolution in March, with the understanding that those most vulnerable would have had the opportunity to be vaccinated by the end of April, Briseno said.
“With the downward trend of cases, staff does recommend approval of the resolution,” Briseno said.
If the number of cases does go back up, the council has the option of putting the mask mandate and restrictions back in place, Briseno said, noting they would have to follow proper procedure with posting a new ordinance and waiting the required number of days to bring it up in a meeting.
The council voted Tuesday to remove the topic from the table and opened it for public discussion.
Cole Sartell said he was present to show support for the resolution and to encourage the “good behavior” of wearing masks, social distancing and good hygiene.
Bradley Walker spoke out against the resolution.
“I see no purpose in this resolution. It is just empty words,” he said, pointing out the current ordinance with the restrictions would expire on Friday. “Why would you want to extend this on and on and on and on? You should have passed this resolution when you first introduced it a month and a half ago. But you continue to kick the can down the road.”
He questioned why the council was wearing masks during the meeting.
“What good is … this resolution unless you are planning to bring back the restrictions at a later date, at the drop of a hat, when you can create – you say that there is another public health crisis,” Walker said.
Kelley Wininger was in favor of the resolution.
“I know that masks do work,” Wininger said.
She said a dear friend of hers was hospitalized and had to be intubated.
“We need to keep our masks,” she said.
Wininger said her teenage daughter competed in Miss South Dakota USA over the weekend.
“Every single one … of those girls and those people that represented our state wore masks. And I’m very proud of them,” Wininger said.
She said the council should be prepared, just in case there is an emergency and the restrictions need to come back.
Councilor Nick Wendell said he appreciated the walk-in vaccination opportunities for the public but wondered if anyone was offering an evening or weekend walk-in vaccination opportunity for those who can’t get to the events during the day.
The community vaccination centers have a management team, there has been a request for expanded hours, and the city has expressed its support, Briseno said.
“So hopefully, they’ll accept that and have a POD later in the evening. It does require resources of the hospital and other people throughout the community, so they have to come together and make sure those resources are available,” Briseno said, adding he hasn’t heard an answer to the request.
Wendell asked if it was possible for an evening or weekend clinic outside of the POD structure, maybe through one of the clinics or hospital directly.
“That would be something we’d have to ask the medical providers,” Briseno said.
Councilor Holly Tilton Byrne said she’d talked about extending the hours, so other segments of the public could be vaccinated.
She said she’d seen on social media that there will be vaccine clinics for those 16 and older that will stretch slightly longer in the evening.
Councilor Patty Bacon said the pharmacies in town have been offering vaccines, too, and have extended evening hours.
“We just have to make sure they all know that those opportunities are out there and really encourage them to get there,” Bacon said.
Councilor Ope Niemeyer said he was in favor of the resolution that lifted the COVID restrictions but had a word of caution.
“We do need to remember that there are probably going to be some businesses that may still require masks, and we should respect their wishes,” Niemeyer said, adding the businesses might have corporate rules. “Could be their own personal reasons on how they want to run their own business. I think we need to respect everybody’s wishes on this and enjoy what we’ve gotten through.”
Councilor Joey Collins sparked a conversation involving City Clerk Bonnie Foster, City Attorney Steve Britzman, Briseno and Wendell about when the resolution would take effect. Briseno said after the meeting that the resolution would take effect Tuesday night with the council’s vote and the mask mandate would revert to recommendations.
The mask mandate had been in effect in Brookings since September.
Contact Jodelle Greiner at [email protected]