Gov. Walz to sign executive order ending statewide mask mandate on Friday

Gov. Tim Walz is set to sign an executive order to end the state’s nearly year-long mask mandate on Friday, following updated guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In an announcement Thursday evening, Walz and state Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said Minnesotans who are fully vaccinated will be able to shed their masks in most situations, but people who are not fully immunized should keep wearing face coverings. A person is considered fully vaccinated two weeks after receiving the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine or the second shot of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.

“If you and your family are vaccinated, things are pretty much back to normal,” Walz said.

The governor said businesses can put their own mask policies in place and that Minnesotans can expect to keep wearing masks in medical settings and on public transportation, regardless of vaccination status. There will be no changes to mask-wearing in schools, either.

Malcolm cautioned that people who have not been vaccinated are still at risk of being infected with COVID-19 and should continue to wear masks.

“With millions of doses administered, we are seeing that vaccines work and are effective," she said in a statement. "But you need to roll up your sleeves and get the shots to get the protection. Minnesotans who aren’t protected should continue to wear a mask and stay safe.”

CDC: Fully vaccinated people can largely ditch masks indoors

Earlier Thursday, the CDC announced its updated guidance will help clear the way for reopening workplaces, schools, and other venues — even removing the need for social distancing for those who are fully vaccinated.

There is still a need for masks in certain circumstances, like in crowded indoor settings like buses, planes, hospitals, prisons and homeless shelters.

In a Rose Garden address, President Joe Biden lauded the milestone but said he wasn’t surprised.

“The American people have never ever, ever let their country down,” he said.