Governor Tim Walz will use his executive power to remove the statewide mask mandate in Minnesota on Friday morning.
The milestone decision comes after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday said its latest guidance allows for fully vaccinated Americans to go without a mask at most indoor and outdoor locations. Social distancing isn't necessary for fully vaccinated folks, either, the guidance says.
Walz will sign executive orders to remove the statewide mask mandate on Friday morning. Local businesses will still have the right to mandate masks on their property, and masks will continue to be mandated in healthcare settings.
Cities and other municipalities may also implement their own mask mandates.
"Even though things may not be a requirement anymore, they will remain strong health recommendations to continue to follow that CDC guidance as we learn more and more," said Jan Malcolm, commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Health.
"Those of you who aren't vaccinated, now is the perfect time. Get this done," Walz said. "You can go without masks then wherever you want to go" – unless a business makes a mask a requirement on their own terms.
There is a caveat to the CDC guidance as it still recommends people still mask up – even the fully vaccinated – when visiting a doctor, hospital, nursing home, prison, jail or a homeless shelter, as well as when flying or using public transportation.
“The science is clear: If you are fully vaccinated, you are protected, and you can start doing the things that you stopped doing because of the pandemic,” the CDC's announcement said.
Minnesota is among the leaders nationally with its vaccination efforts. As of May 12, more than 2,229,000 Minnesotans have completed the vaccine series. That's 50.5% of the state's population. Some 60.9% of the state's 16-plus population has had at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine.
"People who are not vaccinated still are at risk," said Malcolm. "Sixty-one percent is not nearly enough to keep this virus suppressed."
Walz believes most Minnesotans will "choose to do the right thing" going forward.
The new guidance will be posted to the Minnesota Department of Health website on Friday.