BROOKINGS, S.D. (KELO) — The City of Brookings has taken an aggressive approach to battle COVID-19 in the region. The city council passed a mask mandate ordinance in September.
The council appeared ready to take additional action during an upcoming meeting. Ordinance 20-029 could have closed bars, restaurants, coffee houses and other similar places. As of Tuesday morning, it was removed from the council agenda and replaced with a different ordinance.
Brookings had closed businesses before due to COVID-19 concerns and the council was looking to do it again, but a Facebook post showed a revised agenda without the ordinance.
Businesses outlined in the ordinance would have been required to close on October 28. The ordinance also would require social gatherings be limited to less than 10 people. It also outlined the mask mandate for people too.
The new agenda has a different ordinance the city council will look at, which outlines safety measures businesses would be required to take to remain open. Businesses would have to maintain variables such as: tables six feet apart, limit their occupancy to half capacity, require employees to wear masks and have enhanced cleaning requirements.
This has been a months-long process for the Brookings City Council. City Ordinance 20-010 was put in place in July. The ordinance included safety measures and requirements to prevent the spread of COVID-19. It also outlines efforts that provide requirements for the reopening of businesses with reduced occupancy capacities and COVID-19 mitigation strategies in place.
After that, the city approved a mask mandate. Ordinance 20-019 requires people to wear a face covering in indoor businesses, indoor public places and at any City-sanctioned event, unless people can social distance six or more feet.
The council provided clarifications of the requirements and exceptions regarding the mask mandate in another ordinance.
Tuesday night, the council will look at extending the mask mandate and an ordinance that outlines regulations for businesses. Councilman Nick Wendell said there is a lot to consider for community leaders.
“I think as a council, it was important that we understand what our options were, but that we not act too quickly now to put an ordinance in place that was going to be hard to sustain in the long haul and did not account for the negative impact of such an ordinance on, in particular, small and locally-owned businesses,” Wendell said.
Wendell said the first reading is to be used as a public conversation but the council doesn’t take any action on the ordinance. The second reading would be a public hearing and a vote would happen to determine if the ordinance should go into effect.
“We had a first reading on our agenda, in part, because if the situation escalated quickly it would mean we could move onto the second reading more quickly and be more responsive to the needs of the community. But we decided to remove the first reading from the agenda because as a council we kind of had to start thinking about whether or not we were legitimately considering a move to phase two just yet,” Wendell said.
He continued on to say, “Among councilors, we realized we really didn’t have an appetite to make that move just yet.”
Wendell said the closure ordinance created unneeded anxiety in the business community as well, so the council thought it best to remove it from discussion.
But depending on what the end of the year brings, Wendell said there is a possibility the more restrictive ordinance could be discussed.
“You know, 2020 has taught me never to use the word, never. So, I’ve been really cautious as we’ve talked about movement between phases and, in particular, potentially moving to phase two. I’ve been really cautious not to say, ‘We will never considering moving to phase two.’ I don’t think any of us really knows what the winter holds for us in terms of the way COVID-19 might spread throughout our community,” Wendell said.
Wendell said another change that would help the council to look at the closure ordinance would be funds through the state or government for small businesses, but he added that he believes state or federal level direction would be needed to pursue this ordinance.