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MASKING UP: Rochester leaders and business owners speak about enforcing new mandate

Sign on the front door of Cafe Steam notifying customers of mask mandate

ROCHESTER, Minn. (FOX 47) - As of last week, everyone in Rochester is required to wear a mask in a public indoor space. However, getting everyone onboard has been a challenge.

Mayor Kim Norton keeps hearing the same message from Med City residents.

"Not enough people are wearing masks and businesses are not adhering to the rule," said Norton. "It's really difficult when people are so angry about this and have politicized it."

Some businesses are not seeing issues.

"I haven't had any problems at all,' said Susan Schreiber, owner of Artistic Frames Inc. "We do have masks available for people if they don't have one."

Others had to do a little pursuading.

"That first couple of days, we had to be a little more agressive in our education of people," said William Forsman, co-owner of Cafe Steam. "Letting them know that once they are in the building, they need to have a mask on."

There could be consequences for businesses who do not enforce the mask mandate.

"The city could withhold or withdraw their license," said the mayor. "Again, this isn't what we want to do."

The problem is how to confront customers not wearing a mask.

"Those who are vocal about whether or not they would like to wear a mask, we're going to recommend that they choose to spend their money somewhere else," said Forman with a slight laugh.

Violators could recieve a trespassing citation if they cause a problem. So far, that has not been the case.

"I think there's a lot of business to business and peer to peer pressure," said Kathleen Harrington, Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce president. "People are realizing this matters. Masking makes a difference."

With a spike in cases in the county over the past couple weeks, many establishments choose not to risk spreading the virus.

"The best thing for everbody is to shut down and let COVID mellow out a little bit," said Bitter & Pour co-owner Andrew Ferguson. "Then we'll reevaluate and open again."

Without compliance to the mask policy, business leaders fear another shutdown.

"We want to keep our economy open,' Harrington said. "We want to keep our employees, customers and visitors healthy."

"Our business will be here. We're all right financially," said Ferguson. "It's what's good for everybody, not just us."

Most of the business in Rochester have masks for free or purchase if you forgot one. The city is making masks available for free as well. You can find out more about how to get one here.

Alex Tejada

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