Mask requirement now in place in Bemidji

The city of Bemidji is now under a mask requirement for indoor public spaces.

The amendment to the local emergency proclamation was effective just after midnight this morning.

The Bemidji City Council supported the Mayor’s amended emergency proclamation by three, with one against and one abstention.

The council took up the vote after listening to Sanford Health’s presentation on the local COVID situation, where Dr. Colleen Swank spoke on how masking is safe.

Ward 3’s Ron Johnson abstained from the vote, Ward 5’s Nancy Erickson was against, and Mayor Rita Albrecht, Ward 4’s Emelie Rivera and Ward 1’s Michael Meehlhause voted in favor of the mask requirement.

While Johnson supported a community-led measure such as the one in place in Itasca County, “#MaskUpItasca,” Meehlhause expressed that the time to do something like that was over.

Erickson expressed that she was supportive of mask wearing, but not mandating it.


A motion supporting an emergency mask ordinance was offered but withdrawn. Such an ordinance would have required all five votes in favor, which the motioner, Rivera, saw was not possible.

Only the Mayor could have offered the amendment to the proclamation, and with majority council support, it has legal standing beyond three days.

Mayor Albrecht, while admitting the council may receive some blowback for the decision, stood by that it was the right thing to do.

The Sanford Health update on local COVID situation highlighted the increase in cases. Sanford Bemidji reports that since March, they have had 139 positive tests, 4,700 negative tests, 176 pending, with four currently hospitalized, and a total of six hospitalizations.

Sanford does serve beyond Beltrami County, and is not the only testing provider for Beltrami County, as well.

Beltrami County Public Health Family Health Program Coordinator Megan Heuer.

Dr. Swank went over some new symptoms recognized by the CDC in recent weeks, which include runny or stuffy noses with congestion, as well as a COVID timeline.

According to the latest knowledge, COVID-19 has an incubation period between the first and second day of exposure, with day 3 through 5 where patients are able to test positive.

Between days five and seven are typically when symptoms start, and days eight and fourteen are where symptoms and contagion can appear.

As of yesterday afternoon, Beltrami County is monitoring 41 active cases of COVID-19.

Other items the council discussed during their regular meeting included:

  • Approving two utility projects, which includes a sewer extension on 22nd Street, and a sanitary sewer replacement project on Arch Lane. The Arch Lane sewer had some sagging pipe, which, if left unattended, could result in sewer backups in people’s homes. The street department will also look at improving the stormwater system there, as stormwater has been an issue there in the past. The total Arch Lake project will cost around $80,000, with $50,000 coming from the sanitary sewer utility fund and $30,000 from the storm water utility fund.
  • A discussion on the feasibility of  holding an in-person listening session on a Citizens Advisory Board for the Bemidji Police Department. The listening session will likely need to be held on Cisco Webex, the video conferencing app the city uses for their meetings. It was previously scheduled to be in-person at the Sanford Event Center on Aug. 10. The council encourages the public to submit written feedback on their thoughts on the subject. Chief of Police Mike Mastin hopes the advisory board will include input from the public from where the public is comfortable, as addressing the council, even online, can be intimidating.
  • Approval of the committee for the Highway 197 corridor visioning project. Committee members include Mark Dickinson, Dickinson Century 21; Arch Simonson, Simonson’s Market; Gary Gregg, Clarity Glass; John Meyer, Marketplace Foods & Westridge Shopping Center; Tiffany Baer Paine, Security Bank USA; Jim Naylor, Trek North Building; Steve Hill, Hill’s Plumbing; Abby Randall and John Svingen, Chamber of Commerce; Torry Swedberg, ADA; Mur Gilman, Bike Bemidji; Maggie Lowrey, BSU Student; Jaime Thibodeaux, Resident; Debbie Wold, HRA of Bemidji; Beryl Wernberg, retired emergency dispatch/TZD volunteer; Dave Hengel, Greater Bemdiji; Casey Mai, JPB; Mike Mastin, Chief of Police; Emelie Rivera, City Council; Ron Johnson, City Council; Sam Anderson, City Engineering; Bill Pirkl, MnDOT.
  • Ron Johnson, Ward 3, requested “Claims Submitted By VenuWorks” be removed from the consent agenda for a separate vote. Johnson again voiced that the city should not have to pay a management fee to VenuWorks for a building that has been empty since March. The council will likely keep this item off the consent agenda, which is a portion of the agenda that typically has a list of items approved in a single vote.
  • Second reading and public hearing on an ordinance to rename “Boring Court” to “Cooperative Court.” No community member made a comment.
  • First reading of an ordinance amending the City of Bemidji Council-Manager Charter amending Chapter 4, nominations and elections. This amendment is to bring the section to be compliant with state law.

View the draft amendment to the mayor’s local emergency order:



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