REGIONAL – A face mask mandate announced by Gov. Tim Walz last week went into effect on Saturday, ordering Minnesotans who enter or work in publicly accessible indoor spaces to wear masks to …
REGIONAL – A face mask mandate announced by Gov. Tim Walz last week went into effect on Saturday, ordering Minnesotans who enter or work in publicly accessible indoor spaces to wear masks to limit the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19.
Speculation that a mask mandate was coming had been growing in recent weeks as the number of daily cases of COVID-19 shot upward amid growing evidence that too few Minnesotans were voluntarily using masks in their day-to-day activities.
An average of 390 new cases of COVID-19 were reported in Minnesota in June, but that jumped to an average of 547 through the first three and a half weeks of July— a 40-percent increase. The state recorded its highest single-day total of new cases, 793, on July 14.
“Right now, there’s no better way to demonstrate our Minnesotan values than by wearing a mask,” Walz said in his July 22 announcement. “By combating the spread of COVID-19, masking will help protect our neighbors, keep our businesses open, and get us on track to return to the activities we love. This is the least intrusive, the best cost-effective measure, and probably could be the most impactful of anything we could do.”
More than a dozen Minnesota cities, including Duluth, Minneapolis, St. Paul, and Rochester had already imposed local mandates requiring face coverings in all or some indoor businesses and venues. Major retailers including Walmart, Target, Costco, Best Buy, Menards, Home Depot, and McDonald’s were requiring customers to wear face coverings or had announced plans to do so by Aug. 1. Walz’s order made those requirements uniform and applicable statewide.
During a Monday press conference, state health commissioner Jan Malcolm reinforced the urgency of implementing a mask mandate to control the spread of the coronavirus.
“I think it’s important to note that we added over 2,300 cases from Friday to Sunday alone,” she said. “Saturday’s case count of 875 was the highest reported since the beginning of the pandemic.”
Malcolm noted that a recent Fox News poll released last week indicated 85 percent of Minnesotans have a favorable view of people who wear face masks, while only nine percent hold unfavorable views.
While stopping short of a mandate, both the Centers for Disease Control and President Donald Trump had previously urged all Americans to wear masks.
Anyone over the age of five years is required to wear a mask covering their mouth and nose in any indoor business or public indoor space, including when waiting outdoors to enter an indoor business or public indoor space. Indoor space includes buses, taxis, and other forms of public transportation.
There are some exceptions to the mandate, including:
• People are not required to wear masks while eating or drinking.
• Children under age 2 should not wear masks. Those ages 2 through 5 are encouraged to wear masks if they can do so without frequently touching or removing the mask.
• People with physical or mental health conditions for whom wearing a mask is not reasonable are exempt.
• Workers are not required to wear face masks if it creates a safety hazard on-the-job.
Businesses are required to comply with the mask mandate by, among other things, posting signs regarding face mask requirements, informing employees, updating COVID-19 preparedness plans, and taking “reasonable efforts” to enforce the requirement. DEED Commissioner Steve Grove said the idea is not for businesses to get confrontational with customers. He said if a customer says they are not wearing a mask for health reasons, that’s where the discussion should end.
Individuals who violate the order are subject to a misdemeanor citation and a $100 fine. Businesses are subject to fines from $1,000 to $25,000, possible jail time, and regulatory enforcement if they fail to comply.