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Mask mandates in Minneapolis, St. Paul to stay in place for now

Minnesota's statewide mandate ends on Friday.

While Minnesota's statewide COVID-19 face mask mandate comes to an end on Friday, that won't be the case in Minneapolis and St. Paul – at least, not yet.

Gov. Walz announced Thursday that the state's mandate would be ending sooner than expected after the CDC issued new guidance that states fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear masks indoors.

That will see the state transition to a system where face masks are not required to be worn if you're fully vaccinated except in healthcare settings, nursing homes, other congregate care settings such as jails or homeless shelters, as well as when flying or using public transportation.

But local governments and private businesses are still able to require face masks be worn, and both Minneapolis and St. Paul will keep their local mandates in place for now.

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey said that the city would keep its current indoor mask requirement in place while "we review the data, consult our health experts, and analyze the unique circumstances and vaccination rates for our communities across our city."

After this review, Frey says he will "revisit the decision to maintain or lift the mask standard."

The same is the case in St. Paul, whose previous citywide mask mandate had actually been allowed to expire because of the statewide mask order. The city is now working to renew its masking measures in the wake of Gov. Walz's move to lift the statewide mandate.

In a public statement, Mayor Melvin Carter said the move Friday was an "exciting development," but added: "I appreciate the continued diligence of our residents and businesses as we work with our public health professionals to determine when masking measures can be safely lifted at the local level."

Due to their populations, Minneapolis and St. Paul have seen higher numbers of COVID-19 cases during the pandemic, albeit its per-capita rate is lower than a number of other cities and counties in the state.

But while population density has the potential to exacerbate the risk of COVID transmission, the cities both benefit from having some of the highest vaccination rates in the state, with Hennepin County having already reached the 70% of over-16s with at least one dose target, and Ramsey County due to reach the same level in the coming weeks.

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