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MASK OR NO MASK: Could a new requirement be coming to the Med City?

People wearing masks downtown Rochester

ROCHESTER, Minn. (FOX 47) - Anyone entering Rochester city facilities is required to wear a mask. However, you can still go in most other places without one.

City leaders are closely monitoring data about the virus spread and could be ready to make masking a requirement by next week. Minnesota Governor Tim Walz is being urged to enact a state wide mask order by the Minnesota Department of Health.

"If you look at is as a red, yellow, green light, we're in the yellow area," said Rochester Mayor Kim Norton. "We're seeing increases in our county that other counties around us aren't seeing. That's concerning."

There have been more than a thousand total coronavirus cases in Olmsted County, with 18 newly reported cases Thursday afternoon.

Health officials all agree that wearing a mask is one way to stop the spread.

"In our emergency operations center meeting this morning, they thought that only a third of the community was taking masking seriously, maybe even less than that," said Norton.

Even those who are at low risk for developing complications from COVID-19 are asked to comply.

"My safety isn't going to improved by the mask on my face so I do it for other people," said resident Joseph Furst.

Yet getting everyone on board is not that easy.

"Part of the Rochester Ready initiative was to encourage businesses to make sure their staff have masks but also to encourage the community to wear masks when they come into the store," said the mayor.

"I think it's insane for people to not wears masks," said visitor Bill Jadkowski. "Sometimes I feel like telling them off."

To slow the spread, the city of Rochester has debated whether to enact a mask requirement but that could be tricky.

"Probably the biggest detractor is how will you enforce it," said Norton.

"You don't want to infringe upon people's rights. People have the right to not wear one if they choose not to," Furst said. "I think it is a good idea and everyone probably should."

"Especially since you have so many sick people around here," said Jadkowski. "Forty percent of people are asymptomatic so they can be spreading it without realizing it."

Mayor Norton says she wishes everyone would wear a mask and warns of another possible shutdown if things do not improve.

"This is something we need to do to keep our economy open and people safe," she said.

The mayor say the topic of a masking requirement will be brought up at the next week's city council meeting.

Alex Tejada

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