Governor Walz issued a mask mandate on Wednesday, July 22. Photo courtesy of mn.gov
Written by: Connie Knipe
On Wednesday, July 22, Governor Tim Walz announced a state-wide mandate effective on Saturday, July 25 that requires people to wear face masks while inside a public space or businesses, such as restaurants and grocery stores. The mandate also includes wearing masks when riding any public transportation and for workers who are unable to maintain social distancing. During the Wednesday press conference, Walz backed his decision, saying that “this is the way- the cheapest, the most effective way for us to open up our businesses, […] get our kids back in school, […] keep our grandparents healthy, and for us to get back that life that we all miss so much.” Face coverings can be anything from scarves to a home-made cloth mask, but must cover the nose and mouth. The mandate will expire thirty days from July 25 unless it is renewed. Individuals who do not comply with the state mandate may be fined up to $100, whereas businesses could face a fine of up to $1000. Those who are exempt from following the mandate include children under the age five and people who have health conditions that prevent them from wearing a mask. Other exemptions and rules regarding the state mandate can be found on the Minnesota Department of Health’s website.
The order comes two days after the St. Cloud City Council passed an emergency ordinance that requires residents and visitors of the city to wear face coverings while in public indoor areas effective immediately. Although both orders contain similar clauses, one key difference between them is the fine for noncompliance. If an individual does not comply with the St. Cloud ordinance, they can be fined up to $250. To avoid any confusion as to what rules to follow, the Minnesota Department of Health has specified that, if your local government has already established regulations for protective coverings, you must follow those regulations. The state of Minnesota has only provided the minimum face mask requirements that Minnesotans should follow. St. Cloud officials have expressed that they will only cite an individual if they refuse to cooperate after being asked to comply with the ordinance.
Mask mandates are being enforced throughout Minnesota and the U.S. with the goal of slowing the spread of COVID-19 as the country sees a record number of hospitalizations. With some schools scheduled to reopen in a month, the debate over what to do is intensifying and the decision may hinge on how these mask laws affect virus cases in the upcoming weeks. People continue to remain hopeful though with these mandates. “I think it is very possible for us to not have the darker days behind us,” Walz states, “but for us to start moving forward if we can a 90 to 95 percent compliance, which we have seen the science shows, we can reduce the infection rates dramatically which slows that spread and breaks that chain.”
* You can view the full July 20th St. Cloud City Council meeting in the link below. The discussion of the mask ordinance begins at 51:30 minutes.*