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Sioux Falls Leaders Consider Role of Businesses in COVID-19 Prevention

The mayor referencing regional COVID infections on 11/02

Sioux Falls Mayor Paul TenHaken is calling on businesses to set the tone for stronger COVID-19 mitigation efforts. He recently expressed frustration with the local Chamber of Commerce. 

The Chamber’s CEO says the group doesn’t have authority beyond encouraging members to follow CDC guidelines. 

Last month, Mayor TenHaken described a business initiative called the Safer Sioux Falls Pledge. He compared it to a Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval. 

“Masks are required, check. Their staff are required to wear masks, there’s hand-sani[tizer] at every table. They’ll get these check marks and they’ll get a badge they can put in their door, so consumers can know, ‘That’s a place I feel comfortable going.’”

In his most recent press update, TenHaken again called on businesses to require masks for employees and take other precautions. But he couldn’t offer an update on any incentives. 

“I would say that’s a question for our Chamber of Commerce, who I’ve also challenged to take a more strong (sic) position on this. But no one wants to.”

The Greater Sioux Falls Chamber of Commerce is made up of voluntary members. Chamber CEO Jeff Griffin explains he doesn’t have regulatory authority over those businesses. 

“I don’t have—nor would it be appropriate for me to certify a business as COVID compliant. It’s just not an authority the Chamber of Commerce has.”

The Sioux Falls Chamber is one of dozens of groups supporting the statewide Mask Up SoDak campaign. The healthcare-led campaign launched last week. Griffin says that took precedence over the business pledge.  

“That press conference was happening the same week that Safer Sioux Falls wanted to launch, and the team decided it could create confusion in the public. ‘What are we doing? Is it Mask Up Sioux Falls? Mask up SoDak?’”

Griffin supports the Safer Sioux Falls program as a public resource, but says it’s not a solution to the broader public health problem.   

“It’s quite simply a list of businesses making a voluntary pledge.”

Griffin says the Chamber’s role in the pandemic is ensuring businesses have up-to-date resources—especially as they enter the all-important fourth quarter of the retail year.  

Jackie is based out of SDPB's Sioux Falls Studio.