Superior considers mandating masks in indoor public spaces

The resolution would require face coverings in indoor public spaces.
Customers go in and out of Walmart Thursday morning, July 9, in Superior. The City Council will consider a resolution requiring all customers to utilize a mask when indoors at public retail establishments. (Jed Carlson /

Superior could be following in the footsteps of Rochester, Minnesota.

The Rochester City Council on Monday, July 6, adopted a resolution ordering the use of face coverings in public to curb the spread of COVID-19. The new requirement went into effect Wednesday in the Minnesota city about 200 miles south of Superior.

Mayor Jim Paine said Superior would likely follow the Rochester model.

Rochester's mask order

The resolution adopted by councilors in Rochester requires face coverings to be worn in:

  • Restaurants and bars when not seated at a table
  • Retail businesses at all times
  • Gyms and sports facilities where 6-foot distances cannot be maintained
  • Entertainment venues when someone is within 6 feet of another person
  • Public transportation at all times.

Individuals failing to comply with the order can be charged with trespassing or other crimes if they refuse to leave a business, and businesses that fail to enforce the order could see administrative action against their licenses.
The order remains in effect until Sept. 4 unless the Rochester City Council acts to end it earlier, according to the resolution.


The Rochester resolution carves out exemptions for county, state and federal facilities in Rochester, salons and personal care services, and youth sports participants already under state order, and medical facilities with existing face-covering requirements. It also exempts children age 2 and younger, individuals actively eating and drinking, speakers addressing someone who is hearing impaired or an audience at least 6 feet away, and temporary removal for identification purposes.

Individuals unable to wear a mask due to medical, disability or developmental reasons are also exempt in Rochester.

What Superior officials are considering

Over the last two weeks, the number of positive COVID-19 cases in Douglas County more than doubled, rising from 20 cases on June 25 to 47 on Wednesday, July 8, the most recent update available by the Telegram's deadline. Public health officials said many of the new cases developed among people who visited crowded indoor spaces.

The resolution is something Councilor Esther Dalbec said she has been thinking about for a while.

“I finally got some back-up on it so we’re going to try to go ahead with it," she said.
Masked shoppers leave the Harbor View Super One Thursday, July 9, in Superior’s East End. (Jed Carlson /

Even if the individual who contracts the disease from the new coronavirus doesn’t get so sick they need to be hospitalized or put on a ventilator, Dalbec said they could pass it on to someone who could face those consequences.


“For the sake of the people in Superior, I would like to see everyone wear a mask,” Dalbec said. “I would like to see, where there’s a lot of people, put your mask on when you get out of your car, and you’re going into a business. It’s not going to hurt you any ... for the safety of others, you should just be good citizens and not just think of yourself.”

However, Dalbec said she is skeptical of medical exemptions in Rochester's measure. She said she has an asthmatic relative who is a nurse and wears a mask just fine.

Councilor Warren Bender said he has heard that people are concerned about those who are not wearing masks in public, including in the Government Center.

Paine said he anticipated mandating a requirement for staff to wear a mask yet this week and was working on developing the language of Superior’s resolution Thursday.

Unlike Duluth, which is considering an emergency ordinance mandating masks in indoor public spaces, Superior will consider a resolution for the emergency order rather than create a law that would sunset.

Just like Rochester, Superior’s resolution will grant authority for police to enforce the requirement with existing ordinances if individuals who don't wear a mask refuse to leave a business, Paine said. And business owners who refuse to enforce the order could have that considered when licenses come up for review or revocation, he said.

“Cases are rising in Douglas County, and pretty much every expert on public health, bottom to top, agrees that widespread use of masks reduces the spread of COVID-19,” Paine said. “So, at this point, when we have something known to stop the spread of the virus and it is not an undue burden on people — we have lots of requirements just like it — why wouldn’t we impose a temporary, low-impact safety measure?”

The council would decide how long the measure would be in place. Its next meeting is July 21.


Paine said he would encourage the council to keep the measure in place until the end of the emergency, which is the end of the year, but said he anticipates it might only remain in effect for 60 days.

This story was updated at 8:30 a.m. on July 10 to reflect the correct terminology of Rochester's mask order. It was originally posted at 12:20 p.m. on July 9. The Telegram regrets the error.

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