Breaking with Walz, Minneapolis, St. Paul mayors keep mask mandates in place

The mayors of Minneapolis and St. Paul are keeping their cities’ mask mandates in place pending further guidance from health officials, they announced Thursday evening.

The decisions from Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter come after Gov. Tim Walz said he will sign an executive order Friday morning to repeal Minnesota’s mask mandate, which has been in place for almost 10 months.

Walz originally planned to wait to ditch the mask mandate until 70% of Minnesotans had received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine or July 1 — whichever came first. He swiftly changed course after President Joe Biden backed new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that states people who are fully vaccinated no longer need to wear masks in most public places.

However, Walz said his executive order repealing the statewide mandate would still allow businesses and local jurisdictions to create their own mask policies.

In a statement, Frey said the city’s indoor mask policy will remain in effect until local health experts can review vaccination rates in the community and determine a timeline for lifting the requirement, taking a "health-based philosophy."

"Minneapolis is nearing the end of this long journey, and our city is coming alive again — so we take this precaution to continue that consistent march in the right direction," Frey said. "There is good reason for hope in the Twin Cities.”

In an update Friday, Frey’s office clarified that private offices would not be impacted by the order unless they choose to implement their own requirements.

Carter also said he was waiting for further advice from city health officials before moving forward with lifting St. Paul’s mask mandate.

"The Governor’s announcement means we are starting to emerge from this pandemic," Carter said in a tweet. "I appreciate the continued diligence of our community as we work with our public health professionals to determine when mask measures can be safely lifted at the local level."

According to data from the Minnesota Department of Health, 71% of all Hennepin County residents and 68% of Ramsey County residents ages 16 and older have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.