HIBBING — City employees have been wearing masks inside city buildings and at in-person meetings, and Hibbing has followed Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
While face coverings were not previously mandatory, “we provided the proper PPE (personal protective equipment) for people to feel safe,” said City Administrator Tom Dicklich.
Face masks are now required following Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz’s statewide mask mandate ordered Wednesday in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus as cases continue to increase across the state.
The Minnesota Department of Health on Saturday reported 805 newly confirmed cases, bringing the statewide total to 50,291 positive cases. The death toll as of Friday was 1,571.
The executive order took effect Saturday. As of Friday, at least 29 states and Washington, D.C., have instituted or announced statewide orders requiring face coverings in public.
Minnesota’s mandate requires people to wear masks or face coverings in public indoor spaces or businesses, unless they are alone. That includes while waiting outside to enter an indoor public space.
Masks are also required when using public transportation, and employees must wear a face covering when working outdoors in situations where social distancing is not possible.
While some northern Minnesota cities, including Duluth and Cloquet, recently instituted city-wide mask mandates, Hibbing held off setting a similar measure.
The council, which met Wednesday night, was “waiting to see what the state was going to do,” Dicklich said. The city will continue to follow the state’s lead, he added.
The statewide mandate supersedes city mandates, unless they have stricter requirements.
City Councilor Jennifer Hoffman Saccoman said the mandate is a positive thing, as the community is “our top priority.”
“Hopefully the mask mandate imposed by Gov. Walz will help protect our community from COVID,” she said.
As of Saturday, St. Louis County had 313 confirmed positive cases, according to the Minnesota Department of Health.
The council Wednesday adopted a COVID-19 travel guideline policy requiring city employees to self-quarantine under certain conditions. “The city’s primary intent is to follow Minnesota Department of Health and CDC guidance,” according to the policy.
Employees must self-quarantine for 14 days after returning from international travel destinations classified as “Level 3 with restrictions,” and any cruise ship travel, until further notice. Anyone who has such plans is asked to report their travel to human resources.
Level 3 with restrictions are counties with widespread, ongoing transmission with restrictions upon entry to the United States. Destinations include most European countries, the United Kingdom and Ireland, China, Iran and Brazil.
According to CDC COVID-19 self-quarantine guidelines, individuals should stay home for 14 days, take their temperature two times per day to monitor for a fever, and keep a distance of 6 feet from others.
The council also approved the purchase of an ultraviolet decontamination light for the Hibbing Fire Department to use in its vehicles and small rooms. The department will use a $7,609 federal Assistance to Firefighters COVID-19 grant for the purchase. The light uses antimicrobial technology to disinfect surfaces.
Dicklich said Hibbing Fire Chief Erik Jankila “has a plan in place” for his department. The city, he said, is currently working to assure the rest of the employees, whose first day working under the new state mandate will be Monday, are aware of the new restrictions.
The city administrator said within the community, “some people are for and some are against masks.”
On the Iron Range, many people have taken to social media to criticize business chains such as Target, Walmart, Menards, and SuperOne Foods for requiring masks in their stores.
Mesabi Tribune editor Jerry Burnes contributed to this story.