Duluth councilors clash over mask ordinance, citizens weigh in

Published: Jan. 7, 2022 at 6:26 PM CST
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DULUTH, MN. (KBJR) - Duluth City Councilors had a tense conversation about masks during Thursday night’s agenda session, sparking debate among Duluth residents.

City Councilor Arik Forsman said following Thursday night’s meeting, he hopes all councilors will weigh their options before making a decision for or against a mandate.

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“It is up to interpretation around when that threshold tips and things like this become necessary again,” said Forsman.

He said he needs more time to make up his mind on what’s best for the city.

“I don’t have strong opinions on that at the moment,” he said.

The debate from the city councilors had Duluth’s residents weighing in on the issue as well.

One Duluth resident, Mike Vespa, said he’s concerned about having his personal freedom compromised.

“We live in the United States, we’re supposed to be a free society and make most basic decisions on our own,” he said.

Vespa said he’s not specifically anti-mask, but he does believe that choice should be left up to each individual.

“Every once in a while, you’re in a certain situation, you have people that [are immunocomromised], that’s just common sense,” he said, “but I [want to] make the decision.”

Other Duluth residents, like Jane Kaiser, believe the city needs to hold its residents accountable.

“I have asthma and anything that affects my lungs, like a cold or COVID, could be disastrous to me,” she said.

Kaiser believes if people are given the choice, not enough people will choose to wear it to protect at-risk individuals.

She said when cases are rising like they are now, it’s the city’s duty to protect its residents even if it means making a tough call.

“I think that we all have a responsibility to help slow this thing down and end it,” said Kaiser.

The council still has a lot of deliberation to do before they can make a decision.

“As far as passing laws to deal with masks there’s a lot of considerations that comes into effect and councilors have to think about a lot of different angles to those things,” said Forsman.

In order to enact a mask mandate, the city will first need to unanimously decide to declare a public health crisis.

If that vote passes, the city can enact an indoor mask ordinance with a simple majority.

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