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Rochester, MN (KROC-AM News) - Members of the public will be able to attend meetings of the Rochester City Council in person next week for the first time in over a year.

A statement issued by the City of Rochester says, due to continued COVID-19 spacing requirements, the number of seats available for members of the public will be extremely limited. Everyone will be required to wear masks during the meetings, which will continue to be available for viewing on public access channels and the city's website.

Moving forward, city officials say they will continue to work with Olmsted County Public Health, the Mayo Clinic, Olmsted Medical Center, the Minnesota Department of Health, and federal health agencies when making local decisions pertaining to the governor’s recent announcement that almost all of the remaining statewide pandemic restrictions will be dropped just before the Memorial Day weekend. The statewide mask requirement is expected to remain in effect through the month of June and the city’s statement says guidance from public health and local vaccination rates will determine whether a new or renewed mask mandate would be considered following the end of the emergency declaration issued by the governor.

Mayor Kim Norton shares, “I want to again thank our community members for their help in slowing the spread of COVID-19 and now having one of the highest vaccination percentages in Minnesota. This continues to be an example of how much this community cares. Thank you to our community partners for their ongoing leadership, expert knowledge and guidance; we will continue to work together in the coming months as both the state and our city reopens more fully.”

City of Rochester / Art by Rabe

In a conversation with KROC News, Mayor Kim Norton said she intends to follow the governor’s lead on the face-covering mandate but would consider discussing the issue with the city council if serious local concerns are raised. Norton says she has received calls from constituents who are concerned about dropping the requirement to wear masks while indoors at public places. Many are concerned about their unvaccinated children. Norton says she would feel better about dropping the requirement if the local vaccination rate was higher, perhaps as high as 90-percent but she won’t consider an emergency order without consulting with the city council.

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