Ordinance limiting public gatherings passes first reading

ABERDEEN, S.D. (aberdeennews.com) – After significant debate the Aberdeen City Council approved the first reading of an ordinance that limits public gatherings of 10 people or more and requires a 6-foot separation of people at some businesses.

The action is in response to the COVID-19 virus. It needs a second vote before taking effect.

A violation would be a misdemeanor punishable by as much as 30 days in jail and a $500 fine.

The council debated two ordinances Wednesday in a special meeting in response to the executive order issued Monday by Gov. Kristi Noem.

Both were drafted by City Attorney Ron Wager, who patterned one ordinance after action taken by some other South Dakota communities. It would have ordered the closure of businesses, including restaurants, coffee houses, bars, casinos and other places where food and beverages are offered for on-site consumption. It would have also closed larger recreation facilities, movie theaters, bowling alleys, arcades and the like. That ordinance was not considered by the council, though some members favored it.

The second ordinance includes restrictions, but doesn’t close businesses. It limits the number of people gathering at restaurants, bars and other businesses that serve food and beverages to 10 people where physical separation of 6 feet is not possible. In a restaurant the separation is not required for a family dining together.

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