Mitchell to consider lifting business restrictions on Monday
Mitchell could be loosening its COVID-19 restrictions on businesses and public venues as soon as Monday.
The decision will be made at 5 p.m. Monday, April 27 in a Mitchell City Council special meeting at the Corn Palace. The proposed ordinance, No. O2020-06, would repeal the ordinance passed by the council on March 30 and lift the closure of certain types of businesses. It would instead direct city residents and businesses to follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and White House health guidelines and focus the city's efforts on compliance with those guidelines.
"While the ordinance doesn't not close any particular business or activity, we do acknowledge that activities being held in contradiction of the White House recommendations are likely to generate more concern and complaints," City Attorney Justin Johnson said in the agenda item's memo. "The likely result of that will be increased investigation by the city into potential violations for those types of activities."
Among the highlights to the proposed ordinance:
- Individuals are recommended to follow CDC hygiene practices, with particular importance placed upon "staying home as much as possible, maintaining 6 feet of separation, wearing a cloth face cover in public, and washing/sanitizing hands."
- No person in the city of Mitchell "shall participate in an unnecessary gathering of 10 or more people, unless all participants maintain at least 6 feet of separation at all times." The six-foot restriction does not apply to immediate family members and can be waived for employers and employees if they are wearing appropriate face coverings and are in close proximity for the time necessary to complete a specific task. (The ordinance doesn't apply to, among others, health care facilities, residential care facilities, child care facilities or meetings and proceedings of governments, schools and courts.)
- Businesses that remain open must: meet the provisions listed above; provide a method of sanitizing hands and frequently touched surfaces at the facility entrance and exit; must implement a screening program for employees consisting of a minimum of questioning on COVID-19 symptoms for each employee entering a facility and a temperature check, with employees displaying symptoms or with a temperature of 100.4 degrees or higher shall not be permitted to enter the facility. (Businesses may, but are not required to, expand screening to visitors.)
According to the proposal, the city may hold a manager, owner, supervisor or employee responsible for violations of the sanitation and screening programs. Violations of the ordinance are subject to the city's general penalty: a maximum fine of $500 and or up to 30 days in prison. The violations can also be considered for emergency abatement, which authorizes closure of the facility and removal of all persons. Before re-opening, the violating party would need to submit a written statement to the city to ensure future compliance with the ordinance and businesses or individuals aggrieved by the abatement could appeal the action at the next City Council meeting.
The ordinance also notes that Phase One of White House guidance still called for closures for bars, restaurants, food courts, gyms and other places where people congregate. It also recommends schools and youth activities remain closed, visits to senior living and hospital locations remain prohibited and for large venues and gyms to strictly follow physical distancing and sanitation protocols and for bars to remain closed.
"Understand that any operation conducting business outside of these federal recommendations is anticipated to generate increased public complaints, which may then result in increased investigation by city staff into whether a violation has occurred," the ordinance reads. "All violation investigations and prosecutions are handled on a case by case basis."
Johnson said the ordinance allows legal action to potentially stop repeat violations.
"The ordinance will remain in effect until repealed or amended by the council," Johnson wrote. "However, the mayor can suspend the ordinance if he determines the crisis has passed, which would then allow the council to either vote to repeal the ordinance or to continue the ordinance in effect.
Davison County had five total cases of COVID-19 as of Friday, and two of those cases remain active. The county has been deemed to have minimal to moderate community spread, with less than five cases of community-acquired COVID-19, according to the South Dakota Department of Health.