Mask mandate idea revisited by city council

ABERDEEN, S.D. (By Elisa Sand – The Aberdeen City Council was asked if it’s time to revisit the issue of a mask mandate, but support of that idea remains divided.

The topic was raised at the very end of Monday’s meeting by Council woman Tiffany Langer in response to an email sent by the CEO of Avera St. Luke’s Hospital to the council. That letter, she said, now supports a mask mandate.

“The discussion needs to happen when one of our major hospitals is reaching out,” Langer said.

Langer said later she interpreted the letter as a plea for help from health care workers.

“They’re asking us to do something,” she said noting that the Aberdeen Area Chamber of Commerce is purchasing masks and working on getting those distributed to the community.

“I encourage my fellow colleagues to step up and support these health care workers, because they’re drowning,” she said.

City Manager Joe Gaa said there have been other cities that have passed resolutions similar to the city, which encourage mask use, but some cities have more stringent requirements. An ordinance can be drafted, he said, which could be brought up for discussion when the council is ready.

Councilman Rob Ronayne said there’s an ordinance drafted and ready for consideration, but he also identified several on the council who are opposed to an ordinance requiring masks. Those include Mayor Travis Schaunaman and councilmen Josh Rife, Justin Reinbold, Alan Johnson and Dave Lunzman. He then asked if any have changed their stance. Rife, Schaunaman and Johnson each provided comments, but not a shift in their stance.

Schaunaman said only one South Dakota city has issued a mask mandate, and that city has a higher death and case count. Other cities are talking resolutions, similar to Aberdeen.

Schaunaman specifically noted Watertown’s expected discussion on a resolution Monday. According to reports in the Watertown Public Opinion the Watertown City Council did unanimously approve an advertising campaign to encourage mask use. The council also discussed a mask mandate, which was rejected by a 5-4 vote.

When it comes to the resolution the Aberdeen city council already approved that encourages mask use, Schaunaman said, Aberdeen is ahead of the curve and that resolution is having a positive impact.

(for more on this story visit