Rochester Mask Order – What Does This Mean for My Business?

| Jul 14, 2020 | COVID-19

Rochester Mayor Kim Norton has ordered that, starting July 8, 2020, all those in Rochester over the age of 2 must wear face coverings in indoor, public areas.  Mayor Norton’s mask order may be found here.

The order applies when an individual is in one of five specific Rochester venues.  First, at Rochester restaurant and bars, customers must be masked “when not seated at their table,” regardless of whether they are within 6 feet of anyone.  Second, in retail establishments, customers must put on masks before they enter and may not unmask until they leave; retail employees may not be unmasked in public spaces.  Third, no one may board a public bus unmasked.  Fourth, at exercise centers and sports facilities, individuals must be masked when within 6 feet of anyone.  Fifth, at entertainment venues, individuals must also be masked when within 6 feet of anyone.  If seated and not within 6 feet of anyone, individuals may remove their masks.  Individuals must put masks back on during restroom visits or while otherwise standing in or walking through public areas.

Per the order, masks must “fully cover[] an individual’s nose and mouth.”  Masks may be “temporarily” removed if necessary for identification purposes.  Masks may also be removed by anyone who is “actively” eating or drinking.

Several classes of individuals are exempt from the mask obligation.  For example, the order does not apply to children under the age of 2, Olmsted County facilities, youth‑sports participants, “[m]edical facilities” that already have mask mandates, and those speaking to someone hard of hearing.    Businesses can rely on a patron’s statement if he or she claims to be exempt.

It does not appear that the City will enforce the order against individuals.  Mask nonuse is not a crime and carries no fine.  Rather, businesses are expected to police the order on the City’s behalf.  The order states that any mask-noncompliant individual “will” be asked to leave by business representatives.  Presumably, “will” indicates required action by a business, and if an individual doesn’t leave after being asked, businesses must call law enforcement.  The order states that “if the individual continues to refuse to leave, law enforcement may enforce trespassing laws or any other law the individual may violate.”

Businesses that do not comply with asking unmasked patrons to leave face loss of licenses:

“Any business violating this Order shall be subject to administrative action for any licenses they possess.” 

 It’s unclear in the order which licenses are at risk, but “any licenses” presumably means any business license (including a certificate of occupancy).

The order further provides that businesses must include enforcement of the requirements in their COVID-19 Preparedness Plans, which we previously wrote about here.  Last, businesses are encouraged to hand out free masks.

The mask mandate remains in effect until Governor Walz, the City Emergency Management Director (in consultation with Mayo Clinic, Olmsted Medical Center, and Olmsted County Public Health Services), or the City Council decides otherwise, or until September 4, 2020, whichever is sooner

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