City of Norfolk passes mask mandate but not without debate

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NORFOLK, Neb. (KCAU) – A mask mandate passed unanimously Monday in Norfolk that requires everyone ages five and older to wear a face covering while in public.

But it wasn’t without debate.

The special meeting lasted more than two hours with dozens of input from the people of Norfolk. The mayor repeatedly said council members make decisions based on facts and not on emotion, and data shows a mask mandate is desperately needed.

“What the council did here today voting unanimously to put this into place really gets to what we need to do in the community. Not only to protect our health, our neighbors health, but to also alleviate the burden on our hospital systems, our health care workers, our public safety workers and to keep our businesses open,” Mayor Josh Moenning said.

Moenning said Madison County is a hotspot within a hotspot, as Nebraska ranks 5th in the nation with new COVID-19 cases.

Moenning said the decision helps “stop the bleeding.”

But dozens of Norfolk residents felt otherwise, as heated discussions took up most of the meeting.

“It ruins the morale of our citizens and creates discontent with our government constitutions,” a senior high school student said.

Moenning said medical professionals are pleading for help as the local hospital nears capacity.

Norfolk community members who had mixed reactions on whether wearing a mask should be required.

“I think everyone should wear one. I think it’s something we can do, to do it right, so if we can keep the country open and that’s all we have to do, then we better be doing it,” Ralph Neesen, a Norfolk resident, said.

“There are people who are really into wearing this and that’s fine, but I don’t think we should be forced into this. I think we should be able to go in and shop at our leisure and not be forced into wearing one,” Cindy Schlote, another Norfolk resident, said.

Moenning said if COVID-19 cases continue to rise, another round of imposed shutdowns and restrictions are likely to happen.

The mandate will go into effect Thursday and remain in effect until February 16 unless the council decides to end it sooner.

Those who violate the ordinance will receive a $25 fine from the Norfolk Police Department.

You can read the full mandate agenda in the city council agenda here.

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