In the wake of Mayor Bob Everson’s emergency executive order that implemented a citywide mask mandate on Tuesday, business owners are adapting to the new rules.
The mandate means all individuals inside every indoor building within the city limits would be required to wear a mask or face covering if they are unable to be at least 6 feet apart, along with several other exceptions. While the mask mandate has been in effect for four days, some local business owners are not on board with the executive order.
Dave Heisinger, owner of Dr. Lucky’s Bar and Grill in downtown Mitchell, opposes the mask mandate largely due to the stress it will put on his employees and the business.
“With how bad the shutdown hurt business, this will be another hurt to business. They say the ordinance is all geared toward the individual, but it’s us businesses that have to enforce it,” Heisinger said. “At the end of the day, it should be up to each individual to take the safety measures they feel are best to protect themselves and others. This virus is a serious problem, ”
Heisinger pointed to the legal penalties that can be enforced with the mandate as an outrageous section of the mask ordinance. Although Heisinger has a sizeable amount of square footage inside his bar that would make standing 6 feet a part fairly easy, he said approaching those who violate the rules would make for a bad situation that may cause headaches and hurt business.
Under the Mitchell City Council’s proposed mask ordinance, violators could face a $500 fine with up to 30 days in jail for the misdemeanor offense of not wearing a mask in the proper setting. The council will meet Monday at the Corn Palace to vote on the proposed ordinance. However, the council can make amendments and changes to the ordinance on Monday, as long as they are not “too substantial,” according to City Attorney Justin Johnson. While the city of Sioux Falls recently implemented a mask mandate, there are not any legal penalties for violators.
“If it's up to us to enforce it, then it should be up to us businesses to operate the way we want to and choose whether we require masks or not,” Heisinger said. “So if there are a handful of my customers not wearing masks when they are less than 6 feet apart, am I supposed to call the cops every time I see it? That would hurt business even more.”
For Ed Anderson, owner of Ed’s Pet World, the citywide mask mandate is necessary to reduce the rapid spread of COVID-19 in the Mitchell area. Anderson said wearing a mask is a simple practice that will help quell the virus that's been exponentially spreading in Davison County over the past month.
“I think it is a good thing that we are mandating masks, and it is an easy thing for everybody to do and do their part,” Anderson said. “Before the mandate even, we saw about 98% of the customers coming in and wearing masks. As business people, we can do our part and slow the spread of this and help the hospitals.”
As of Friday, Davison County had a total of 868 active cases, marking the highest number of active cases since the start of the pandemic. While Mayor Everson’s mask mandate has been in effect for just three days, the number of active cases in Davison County hit a record high on Friday.
Under the ordinance, there are some exceptions that include athletes engaged in a recreation activity such as basketball, hockey and swimming, who would not be required to wear a mask or face covering during activity. In addition, Johnson said the ordinance also exempts children under the age 5, individuals who have a medical condition or disability preventing them from safely wearing a mask and individuals who are eating food or drinking beverages.
Anderson said if a customer comes into his store and is not wearing a mask when less than 6 feet of distance is not maintained, he and his staff are going to avoid a confrontation if they refuse to wear a mask or face covering. In addition, Anderson said if a customer has a medical condition or disability that prevents them from being able to safely wear a mask, he will take their word and allow them to stay in and shop.
“I told my staff that I don’t want to get into any confrontation with anybody over not wearing a mask, and I don’t think it is worth it,” Anderson said. “With the whole idea that it is up to us businesses to enforce it, I don’t think any business is thinking of calling the police if there is an issue with someone refusing to wear one. I don’t feel this ordinance is really enforceable, but it is something to show our community that we must take this seriously and wear masks when needed.”
The Mitchell Republic reached out to a handful of more businesses asking for their opinion on the mask mandate, but most of the owners declined to comment given the aggressive rhetoric and division that the mask topic has stoked in the community of Mitchell.