Cities and counties are starting to reinstate mask mandates. Here's what you need to know. | KSTP.com

Cities and counties are starting to reinstate mask mandates. Here's what you need to know.

Rebecca Omastiak & Callan Gray
Updated: August 03, 2021 10:42 PM
Created: August 03, 2021 02:29 PM

Amid the latest surge in COVID-19 infections fueled in large part by the more infectious delta variant, local governments around the Twin Cities are turning back to mask mandates to mitigate the spread of the virus.

Masks will once more be required inside buildings operated by the cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul and Hennepin and Ramsey county buildings.

In a joint release Tuesday, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter said they were issuing new mask guidelines for their respective cities.

In Minneapolis, anyone over 2 years old will be required to wear a face mask inside all buildings and facilities operated by the city, and all city employees will be required to wear a mask in all "spaces of public accommodation" within the city.

“Get vaccinated,” Frey said. “Getting the vaccine will help protect you and your neighbors from a deadly virus and it is the single most important action we can all take to curb the need for further restrictions.”

St. Paul's guidance also requires all employees and visitors to wear masks inside city-operated indoor facilities. A spokesperson confirmed the city's mask mandate also applies to those who are over 2 years old. 

Employees can forego a mask when they are alone at their workspaces and are not in a congregate setting.

"This pandemic is far from over,” Carter said. “These measures will help protect us as we continue our work to get our entire community vaccinated."

In both cities, private businesses can decide for themselves whether they plan to implement their own mask requirement. Although, city leaders urge them to adopt universal masking. 

“Especially in the last 24 to 48 hours, we have come to the conclusion that we'll probably be back in masks for the time being and we are totally fine with that. It is what it is,” said Bee Peterson, co-owner of Urban Village SalonSpa. “We just want to get through this.”

With locations in both Minneapolis and St. Paul, she’s been keeping a close eye on the climbing case numbers.

“It’s been very reminiscent of a couple of springs ago when we were all sort of waiting to see what was happening next,” Peterson said. “I do trust that we're going to come out of this OK and we're going to do what we have to do to get us there.”

According to Hennepin County officials, starting Wednesday, face coverings will once again be required for all employees, volunteers and visitors to county buildings, regardless of vaccination status. The mandate applies to those who are 5 years old and up.

A release from Hennepin County stated the renewed requirement is in response to "the highly transmissible delta variant of COVID-19 spreading in our community,"

“We’re taking these precautions now proactively, preemptively so that we're out ahead of this,” Hennepin County Administrator David Hough said. “This is done to protect our employees and our residents.”

Hough told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS he didn’t have any hesitation reinstating the mask mandate.

“No, in light of the significant transmission, with what we're seeing with trends not only in Minnesota but across the country, and based upon our experience last year,” he said. “The infection rate occurs, they're sick and then they're hospitalized and we're starting to see and monitor the census in hospitals and what's going on in those facilities.”

Meanwhile, Ramsey County officials confirmed the face-covering guidance that was previously in place, prior to it being lifted in early June, will once again take effect Wednesday.

During its meeting Tuesday, members of the Ramsey County Board of Commissioners discussed implementing the requirement.

"We are making the recommendation ... in that we want to get ahead as well, so we want to rely on the mitigation efforts that we know to reduce transmission and besides the vaccine, the best option we have is masking," Dr. Lynne Ogawa, medical director for St. Paul–Ramsey County Public Health, argued to commissioners.

County officials arrived at the decision to require masks inside county buildings once again per updated Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) COVID-19 guidance.

As of Tuesday, 45 counties—including Hennepin and Ramsey counties—in Minnesota are now either at a "substantial" or "high" rate of community spread of the virus, according to the CDC.


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