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Faith, Business and Municipal Leaders Divided on Sioux Falls Mask Mandate


The Sioux Falls City Council is considering a mask mandate tonight. It carries a 50-dollar fine for failing to wear a mask in public indoor spaces where social distancing isn’t possible. 

Local faith leaders and some doctors say the current policy of personal responsibility isn’t working. Others say the ordinance won’t make more people wear a mask. 

The Greater Sioux Falls Area Chamber of Commerce encourages masks to prevent spreading COVID-19. But C-E-O Jeff Griffin says the group isn’t convinced the ordinance will improve compliance. 

“We’re talking about an ordinance, a law. And there’s not clarity on the consequences of a business not enforcing it, their ability to enforce it, and prosecuting it! We’re not clear on if it’s even a prosecutable offense!”

Griffin says there should be less focus on a mandate and more effort on educating people about why wearing a mask is the right thing to do. 

On Monday, a group of local faith leaders and doctors supported the mandate for that reason. Bishop Constanze Hagmaier of the South Dakota Synod Evangelical Lutheran Church in America quotes the Preamble of the Constitution. She says this ordinance supports “the general welfare.” 

“This would NOT infringe on the freedom given to us as God’s children, but it would help us live out our Christian calling to care and love our neighbor.”

Dr. Shannon Emry is a local pediatrician who spent 14 years in the U-S Airforce. She says healthcare workers are “in the trenches” of the fight against COVID. 

“So yes, you do have a personal choice here, personal freedoms, and your choice is this: Will you choose to support your troops? Or will you turn away, turn off the radio, because it’s too hard?”

During an event with the Sioux Falls Downtown Rotary, Mayor Paul TenHaken responds to calls from healthcare workers to mandate masks.

“You just have to think about healthcare. I have to think about the economy, and police officers and the political ramifications of this and all of these other elements. While a seemingly simple mask mandate doesn’t seem like a big deal, it is.”

TenHaken says he will not support the ordinance if he’s forced to break a tie vote.