Clarification: The Sioux Falls Board of Health has the authority to mandate closures amid a health epidemic. An earlier version of the story said the authority belonged to the City Council.
The Sioux Falls Board of Health will meet Tuesday to review next steps to combat the spread of COVID-19, which could include closing bars and restaurants in the city, the mayor’s office said Sunday.
The development comes just minutes after the mayor of Rapid City on Sunday announced an emergency meeting of the City Council there, in which they will consider an ordinance to enact emergency measures that include the closure of restaurants, bars, coffee houses, clubs, cafes, casinos and recreation facilities.
In Sioux Falls, Mayor Paul TenHaken has said repeatedly that he can’t force private business closures through executive action. His deputy chief of staff, T.J. Nelson, told the Argus Leader Sunday that enforcing that sort of action can only be done through ordinance and by resolution of the Sioux Falls Board of Health.
In a release issued Sunday evening, the mayor’s office said Sioux Falls Health Director Jill Franken has called a special meeting of the health board to consider doing just that.
“Using data being gathered by the state and local health partners, the Board of Health may be asked to consider the mandatory closures of nightclubs and bars that do not prepare served food, video lottery casinos, movie theaters, live performance centers, gyms and fitness centers, bowling alleys, arcades, private social clubs and indoor shopping centers,” the release said.
The South Dakota Secretary of Health, with the consent of Gov. Kristi Noem, could also force private business closures through an emergency declaration.
In Rapid City, the proposal being considered would still allow restaurants to offer take-out and delivery service.
Mayor Steve Allender said in an afternoon press conference that the closure of private businesses with interaction with the public are necessary due to the public not taking social distancing measures seriously.
“This is not the way to keep us safe in the future,” he said.
In Sioux Falls, TenHaken has pleaded for businesses to make operational changes to mitigate spread of COVID-19. And over the weekend, he posted on his Twitter a pair of photographs that showed busy parking lots outside of Sioux Falls bars, and again urged business owners and residents to stay home.
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TenHaken said he will support any actions taken by the health board.
“The public health of Sioux Falls is paramount during this pandemic,” he said Sunday. “We will take the steps necessary and prescribed under state law and city ordinance to protect the people of Sioux Falls. Our Board of Health can take heavier action if they are inclined, and I will support them in this process.”
Still, he’s not ready, nor are officials with Sanford Health and Avera Health, to recommend closing private businesses yet, he said in a live video streamed online.
“We are not at a point in Sioux Falls where we need to mandate business closures,” he said. “Collectively we agree that that’s where we’re at.”
But as more data becomes available with more pending tests for COVID-19 being processed in the coming days, the position will continually be reassessed, he said.
City ordinance and state statute allow for the Public Health Director, in this case Franken, to make closure recommendations to the Board of Health in response to public health epidemics. If the board opts for forced closures, a resolution or ordinance will be presented to the City Council for additional considerations.
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