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Brookings ends mask mandate, still encouraging masks in public

Published: Apr. 28, 2021 at 5:11 PM CDT
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BROOKINGS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - Health experts have long said face masks are one of the best ways to slow the spread of COVID-19.

In South Dakota, the city of Brookings was early on the bandwagon to require wearing them in public. But now, the city is easing those restrictions.

On Tuesday night, the Brookings City council voted 6-1 in favor of ending the mask mandate that’s been in place since last September.

“We’re still encouraging the community to continue using face masks in particular if they’re not vaccinated, but it is no longer a mandate,” said City Counselor Nick Wendell.

A resolution is still in place, but the city softened the language to a simple recommendation. In order to come to this decision, counselors weighed in several factors.

“One of the other things we’ve been watching of course is the vaccination rate. In Brookings we have hosted a number of large vaccination clinics,” said Wendell. “We also have seen a pretty sharp decline in positivity rate of tests and a decline in the number of COVID-related hospitalizations.”

Another concern to consider was making sure they could safely get through the academic year.

“Now that we’re reaching the end of the academic year, it felt like an appropriate time to transition the mandate to recommendations,” said Wendell.

SDSU is following that by adjusting its campus protocols.

“We will be starting a phased more normal as we head toward next semester,” said SDSU Research and Economic Development Vice President Daniel Scholl.

For the university, having that mandate in place was helpful to keep on the same page as the city.

“Having that microcosm of working together for a common goal of keeping people healthy and being able to deliver education and research services,” said Scholl.

Both attribute symbiotic efforts between the City, School District, University, and community to reach several of their common goals.

“We didn’t have to miss a single class day in the Brookings school district due to a COVID outbreak in this academic year. We’re thankful to be at this stage. The same is true for SDSU. And those are two important milestones,” said Wendell.

Wendell also mentioned they’re hoping to hold in-person graduation ceremonies both at Brookings high school and at SDSU.

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