The cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul are re-implementing public, indoor mask mandates in an effort to curb the rampant spread of COVID-19.
Each city's mayor announced the new mask policy Wednesday afternoon, with both citing the continued, increasing spread of COVID-19, driven in large part by the emerging omicron variant.
“We have to keep our city healthy and moving. Wearing a mask is an obvious next step to do both,” said Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey in the announcement.
Said St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter: “Reinstating the masking requirement is an important step in keeping our communities safe amid the surge of COVID-19 cases in St. Paul."
The new mask mandates come about seven months after each of the Twin Cities ended their original face covering requirements. At the time, COVID cases were waning and vaccine uptake was on the rise. That has changed. COVID is now surging across the state, with a positivity rate of more than 13%.
The new emergency order in Minneapolis goes into effect at 5 p.m. Thursday. It requires everyone wear a face covering while in businesses and places of indoor public accommodation. That can include bars, restaurants, museums, theaters, schools, recreational facilities, retail locations, and service offices, the mayor's office said.
In St. Paul, Carter's executive order, signed Wednesday, requires face masks be worn in all indoor licensed businesses in the city, as well as in all city-controlled facilities, when 6 feet of physical distancing cannot be maintained. The mandate also goes into effect at 5 p.m. Thursday.
Both cities have exceptions for when actively eating or drinking, as well as exceptions for very young children and individuals who aren't able to wear a face mask due to medical reasons. Minneapolis also carves out an exception for athletes, performers or supporting staff who are performing or competing.
The orders do not require face coverings to be medical grade. Cloth masks, whether manufactured or homemade, are just fine as long as they fully cover the wearer's nose and mouth.
The Minneapolis emergency regulation will remain in effect until further notice, with no built-in expiration. St. Paul's executive order automatically expires in 40 days, or when the local emergency is declared over — but it can be extended beyond that date.
Carter called the decision, in tandem with other continued COVID mitigation efforts, "paramount to recovering from this pandemic and building toward our future."
Both Hennepin and Ramsey counties currently have a high rate of community transmission.
Note: This story has been updated to include the length of each city's new mask mandate, according to the emergency orders.