Seward residents will continue to live under an extensive list of COVID-19 mandates. On Monday, July 27, the Seward City Council voted unanimously to extend emergency regulations that restrict campgrounds to 50% capacity, prohibit gatherings of 20 or more people, and require masks in public indoor settings.
The extended state of emergency did not sit well will several Seward residents who provided written testimony for the meeting which did not allow in-person participation from the public.
Masks should be a personal choice.
“Please stop trying to put yourself in the position of health experts for our lives. That’s not your job,” Jen Appel wrote. “Please know that we will all remember how you vote tonight.”
“Masks should be a personal choice,” she added. “There should absolutely not be a government mandate or ordinance. You don’t mandate other aspects of health that do good, like getting plenty of Vitamin D, boosting your immune system, drinking enough water. Why don’t you? That right, because it is ridiculous.”
Miranda Backlund said the mask mandate has sparked division in the small town of about 2,700 people, and she has experienced unkind and rude behavior when not wearing a mask.
“I’ve heard good people back stab each other,” she said.
Others argued that multiple studies have shown masks to be ineffective at limiting the spread of COVID-19, while actually posing health problems for people who wear them. Of the seven public comments, only one favored extending the emergency regulations.
The city council was unmoved by those who opposed the mandates despite the fact that Seward has had no hospitalizations or deaths due to COVID-19, and there are only 44 confirmed active cases of the virus in the community as of July 28.
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The ordinance claims that the proposed emergency regulations preserve constitutional rights, while protecting the public from “an immediate threat to life and safety.”
With the city council’s vote, Seward residents must continue to wear masks in any public gathering where they cannot maintain a six-foot distance between household members. Exceptions are made for children under four and those who have difficulty breathing. Those who are “actively eating or drinking” at a restaurant are also exempt.
The extended prohibition on group gatherings of 20 or more applies to all in-person events with few exceptions. Gatherings for the purpose of exercising Constitutional rights would continue to be exempted from the mandate. Additionally, eating and drinking establishments, retail stores, tours, and places of worship are limited to 50% capacity.
The ordinance is effective until Sept. 2 or until the “declaration of emergency” is rescinded.