Ordinance to loosen COVID-19 restrictions for some businesses in Sioux Falls moves ahead

Local News

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Two parents, an aunt and uncle, two grandparents and a couple of minor kids could go out to dinner together in a Sioux Falls restaurant under a proposed ordinance under consideration by the Sioux Falls City Council.

The council considered an ordinance that loosens COVID-19 based restrictions on bars and restaurants, athletic facilities and entertainment venues in a special meeting Friday.

Click the document below to see the new ordinance

“For the foreseeable future, this is a regulation we can feel really good about,” Sioux Falls City Public Health Director Jill Franken said.

But Franken said if the measure passes and COVID-19 cases or hospitalization increase significantly, the city may need to take different action.

The council unanimously approved a second reading at a 10:30 a.m. Thursday, May 7 council meeting. A first and second reading are required by law before an ordinance receives formal approval.

City action taken before this proposed ordinance was not intended to stop COVID-19, council member Christine Erickson said.

“The intent was to make sure when you are ill, you get a hospital bed and get the best care possible. This loosening up is a good step. If you’re not comfortable, stay home,” Erickson said.

Council member Greg Neitzer said the ordinance is part of living with COVID-19.

“I see a strong commitment from the business community (to make this work),” council member Janet Brekke said.

The ordinance is based on new modeling, which shows the city has had a 25% mitigation reduction with COVID-19 and has reduced the need for hospital beds at the peak to under 500, Franken said. Social distancing and the 25% mark need to continue, Franken said.

Yet, council member Pat Starr said he doesn’t see a 14-day decline in cases that has been recommended before opening up businesses.

Franken said there is room to put the ordinance in place. Modeling based on the ordinance will continue. The city does have room to maneuver between the original surge estimate and the most recent surge mode, Franken said.

Key pieces of the proposed ordinance for bars, restaurants and similar businesses include having enough space to make sure chairs are six feet apart from each other for each patron or in the case of smaller-spaced businesses, limiting the total number of patrons to 10 or less with six feet of distance. All involve the need to continue social distancing, Franken said.

Franken said a party that may go out to dinner, for example, would be a total of six adults and minor children under 18, who would not be included in the total of six.

Outdoor portions of the business would be included in the ordinance, Franken said.

Parties/customers must stay six feet apart. “It’s not written in here where people can be wandering around in a bar,” Franken said. That also includes staying six feet apart coming and going from a restroom, she said.

The ordinance also impacts recreational facilities, athletic facilities, health clubs and entertainment venues. Minors would apply these facilities.

Those types of facilities should limit their patron total to 10 or less. If a larger space such as a movie theater, the limited maximum number of patrons is 50% of the business’s occupant load as determined by the city fire marshal or the city planning and development office.

Franken said a lot of time was spent discussing the 50% limitation. Franken said a movie theater was a good example.

People often go to the movies in groups of two, three or four. Franken said if a group of two to four sat with two seats between another group that would provide six feet between patrons.

“This (50%) is a maximum. If you can’t meet that goal and meet the social distancing requirement, maybe it’s not 50% you may decide (to use) 40%,” Franken said.

Franken and several other city officials said business owners can contact The Supporting Operations and Resiliency (SOAR) program about complying with the ordinance. SOAR operates through the city of Sioux Falls.

A Sanford Health official, Dr. Michael Wilde, said he thinks it’s time to allow people to return to some medical care that may have been put off during the COVID-19 pandemic.

He also recognizes the impact COVID-19 has had on local businesses.

The models have held well enough to allow for the proposed ordinance, Wilde said.

Dr. Michael Elliot of Avera Health said the public has to “absolutely maintain” mitigation strategies. Returning to normal won’t happen in the foreseeable future, Elliot said.

The proposed ordinance is made with good intentions and right intentions and Avera would stand with the city if it was passed, Elliot said.

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