On day face mask mandate goes into effect, Minnesota GOP shares pictures of mask-less attendees at party event

Party leaders including Paul Gazelka and Kurt Daudt, and congressmen Pete Stauber and Jim Hagedorn were in attendance.
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The Republican Party of Minnesota has been criticized after posting pictures of a campaign event showing no face masks being worn on the day Minnesota's statewide mandate went into effect.

The pictures shared on Saturday by the Minnesota GOP led to subsequent criticism and social media and from the Minnesota DFL, which has accused the GOP of "political posturing" over face mask wearing.

The GOP posted pictures from Maddens Resort on Gull Lake on "Day 2" of its "Summer Retreat" event, which started Friday evening and ended Saturday, with the mask mandate having gone into effect Saturday morning.

The pictures show Minnesota GOP chairwoman Jennifer Carnahan, Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt, and U.S. Reps. Jim Hagedorn and Pete Stauber speaking to a room where no face masks are being worn.

The only people notably wearing masks in the room appear to be Maddens employees.

Face masks and social distancing have long been recommended to help limit the spread of COVID-19, and the images shared by the GOP sparked criticism online.

But in a statement to BMTN, Carnahan said that masks were worn at other stages of the event, just not when people were sitting down at tables.

"Party staff, leaders and other attendees wore masks during registration, when getting food and beverages, entering, etc," she said., "Additionally, the venue took other precautions such as socially distant tables with only 3-4 individuals per table.

“The MNGOP provided both reusable and disposal masks for attendees and will continue to do so at any in-person events. However, we are not law enforcement."

A spokesperson for Maddens Resort says that all of its guests are required to wear masks in indoor spaces "unless someone is seated at a table dining."

While nobody appears to be eating during speeches in the pictures shared by the GOP, there are coffee cups on the tables and the remains of food on some. 

"Our staff has been wearing masks since our opening in April," they added. "We have signage posted at every entry to public indoor locations indicating that masks are required and we continue to do our best to ensure that Madden's staff and guests are abiding by the most recent government mandates. Guest and staff safety and health continues to be our number one priority."

There is an exemption in the mask mandate that states people don't have to wear one when "testifying, speaking, or performing" indoors, as well as while people are at a table eating and drinking.

Minnesota GOP's face mask skepticism

A poll of Minnesota by Fox News earlier this week found that 85 percent of Minnesotans have a favorable view of people who wear face masks.

But the Minnesota GOP has stated its opposition to Gov. Tim Walz's statewide mask mandate, and many of its members have made a point of not wearing masks at recent legislative sessions, even while their counterparts in the DFL have worn them.

Carnahan has been among the most outspoken opponents to the mask mandate, likening Gov. Walz to North Korean premier Kim Jong-Un for enacting it.

She was also pictured attending a smaller party event in northern Minnesota last week, again where social distancing and mask wearing didn't appear to be common, as reported by WTIP North Shore Community Radio.

Masks were worn by many – but not all – attendees and social distancing measures were in effect at a GOP event in Eagan, Minnesota, on Saturday evening, which featured 2nd District candidate Tyler Kistner and Senate candidate Jason Lewis, the latter of whom appeared virtually.

While public health experts and epidemiologists, including the CDC and University of Minnesota's Dr. Michael Osterholm, have said that cloth face masks don't necessarily protect someone from contracting COVID-19, they do limit the emission of droplets from the mouth and nose of someone with COVID-19, whether symptomatic or asymptomatic.

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The mandate that went into effect Saturday requires the wearing of face masks in all indoor public spaces in the state, with a few exceptions for children and those with health conditions.

Gov. Walz meanwhile has come in for criticism online for a bonding bill event earlier this month in which he and several others removed their masks for a photo op. 

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