Gov. Tim Walz to announce 'next steps' in COVID-19 response at Wednesday press conference

It's expected that a statewide mask mandate will be implemented.
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Governor Tim Walz

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Gov. Tim Walz has called a press conference to provide the latest update in the state's response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and it's expected he will announce a statewide face mask mandate.

The governor said on Tuesday that a decision on a face mask requirement would be forthcoming "in the next day or two," with his office calling a press conference just hours later.

He will speak in St. Paul at 2 p.m., where he'll be joined by, among others, Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan, Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm, Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development Commissioner Steve Grove, and infectious disease specialists from the University of Minnesota and North Memorial Health.

Also speaking will be Houston White, the owner of H. White Men's Room barber shop in Minneapolis, and Hannah Anderson, owner of Compass Rose boutique in Bemidji.

Walz has been considering the implementation of a statewide face mask requirement in indoor public spaces, with more than a dozen Minnesota cities and many more businesses and organizations already requiring customers and guests wear masks.

CNBC reports that as of Monday, 28 other states in the U.S. have statewide mask orders in place.

Walz's planned announcement comes as state officials prepare to make a decision – coming by the week of July 27 – about the return of school in the fall, with Walz saying on Tuesday that the simplest thing people can do to get kids back into schools and make sure businesses remain open is to wear a mask. 

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Minnesota's COVID-19 positive case rate has crept back up in recent weeks, having dipped from its highs in May, but still hasn't seen the exponential increase being experienced in southern U.S. states that have opened more widely.

He had hoped to pass the mask mandate as a bipartisan bill through the Legislature, but received pushback from Republicans who want him to end the peacetime emergency that grants him emergency powers to respond to COVID-19.

You will be able to watch Walz's press conference here. After it's over, he will hold a call for media outlets in greater Minnesota.

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