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City of Ramsey votes to stop enforcing Minnesota's face mask mandate

City Council members say it infringes on individual rights.

The City of Ramsey will no longer enforce Gov. Tim Walz's statewide mask mandate, saying doing so is infringing on people's individual rights. 

The Ramsey City Council on Tuesday voted 4-3 to pass a resolution instructing that no city resource be used to enforce Executive Order 20-81, which requires Minnesotans to wear a face covering in certain settings, and "any other orders that infringe on people's constitutionally protected rights, especially as it related to COVID-19."

City Council members Ryan Heineman and Chelsee Howell proposed the resolution, saying in it that the orders "have broadly undermined the basic human rights of our neighbors, our families, and ourselves."

City attorney Joe Langel in the meeting agenda packet said the City Council doesn't have the authority to instruct law enforcement not to enforce certain laws, noting the mask mandate has been argued in court and it has been upheld. 

Ramsey Police Chief Jeff Katers stated in the meeting packet that while the mask mandate is not "proactively enforced" by police, they are bound to enforce the law. 

Before the vote on Tuesday, Langel again discouraged the City Council from passing the resolution, saying "You can't ignore [the executive order] because you disagree with it," the Star Tribune reports. "It still has the full force of the law."

Mayor Mark Kuzma, who returned to work this week after recovering from COVID-19, voted against the resolution, saying he's disappointed the council brought it forward. 

"COVID is real," Kuzma said, according to the Star Tribune. "Wearing a mask is not a big deal to me."

Early on in the pandemic, a few Minnesota cities passed resolutions saying they wouldn't enforce the governor's stay-at-home orders and would allow businesses to reopen if they so chose. Then, during the restaurant and bar closures in November-December, some businesses took it upon themselves to defy Walz' orders, with the state taking action against many that did.

There were other efforts in Ramsey to pass such measures, but they failed. This one passed after the makeup of the City Council changed following the November 2020 election, the Star Tribune said. 

Heineman, who proposed the ordinance, was elected during a special election on Feb. 9. 

The Ramsey City Council's vote comes as some states have begun relaxing COVID-19 restrictions, including removing statewide mask mandates, as COVID-19 case numbers, hospitalizations and deaths trend downward. However, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and President Joe Biden have urged against easing restrictions too quickly. 

Gov. Walz on Tuesday said he would share details about loosening restrictions in "days."

The CDC and Minnesota Department of Health say wearing a mask is still a key tool in preventing the spread of COVID-19 and its more contagious variants from spreading while more people get vaccinated against the disease. 

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