Sioux Falls Mask Ordinance Dies with Mayor's Deciding Vote

Nov 11, 2020

The Sioux Falls City Council voted against an ordinance that would have required masks indoors when social distancing isn’t possible. After nearly three hours of public comment and discussion, Mayor Paul TenHaken delivered the tie-breaking vote against the ordinance. 

City Council members maintained their divided opinions on the mask mandate. Supporters cited the rising case counts and a need to protect hospital capacity however possible. Opponents say a mandate is difficult to enforce, sows community division, and violates principles of personal liberty. 

In the past two weeks, the Sioux Falls area has seen nearly five thousand new cases of COVID-19. An ideal number under C-D-C guidelines for low incidence of the virus is 26. 

Councilor Pat Starr says the pandemic is out of control

“This mask mandate isn’t gonna do it. We’re fooling ourselves to think this mandate will make a difference. But in conclusion what I would say: it may be too little, but it’s not too late.”

Councilor Greg Neitzert is among those in opposition. He says a mandate is too big a step for the government to take, and businesses can enact their own. 

“I’m not sure what we necessarily can do. This is a big step and I’m not sure the evidence is there. And even if it was I’m not sure I can go there, just based on principle.”

Councilor Curt Soehl introduced the ordinance. Before the vote, he encouraged his fellow councilors to contact him in the morning regardless of the result to figure out what’s next. 

“I’m damn scared. Two daughters that are nurses. I’ve got two son-in-laws that work in healthcare. Eight grandchildren. And I’m scared for them. And I’m scared that when I go to bed tonight—if I do tonight—that I haven’t done enough.”

When the vote tied four to four, Mayor TenHaken gave the final vote against the ordinance. He says he will continue promoting masks and other COVID-19 mitigation efforts, but will not mandate them.