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Minnetonka approves mask mandate in emergency ordinance

The mandate officially goes into effect Monday night.

Following in the footsteps of Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnetonka is bringing back citywide masking rules as the omicron variant of COVID rages.

In a virtual meeting Friday, the Minnetonka City Council approved an emergency ordinance requiring face coverings in certain indoor spaces. The new rule will officially kick in Monday, Jan. 17, at 11:59 p.m.

Per the ordinance, the mandate applies to those "over the age of five and able to medically tolerate a face covering" while they're in "indoor spaces of public accommodation" — i.e. businesses like retail stores, entertainment venues and schools. 

There are quite a few exemptions from this rule, however:

  • Athletes, performers and supporting staff competing or performing at indoor spaces of public accommodation
  • Individuals actively engaged in exercise or a fitness activity at any indoor recreational facility
  • Customers at a restaurant or bar are not subject to this ordinance when seated at a table or counter
  • Individuals unable to wear a mask due to medical, disability or developmental reasons
  • Individuals unable to remove their face covering without assistance
  • Individuals speaking to someone who is deaf or hard of hearing, if the mouth must be visible to communicate effectively
  • Government buildings operated by any entity other than the City of Minnetonka
  • Public and private school facilities
  • Religious institutions

Businesses covered by the ordinance will be required to post mask signage at all public entrances.

What's more, employers will have to require their employees to wear a medical-grade mask or cloth face covering "whenever such employees have face-to-face contact with the public" — regardless of vaccination status. 

The ordinance makes it clear that violation of any of these rules "is not a criminal offense," though individuals who fail to comply with the order "must be asked to leave." If such individuals refuse to leave, the city says, "law enforcement may enforce trespassing laws or any other law the individual may violate."

As for the exemption for those who are unable to wear a mask due to medical reasons and/or disability, the ordinance says that "businesses and organizations may rely on an individual's statements if they claim to be exempt."

In other words, people who claim to be exempt from the mask rule don't have to show proof. 

In Friday's COVID-19 update from the Minnesota Department of Health, officials reported 11,560 new cases — which doesn't include positive at-home test results.

You can track latest COVID numbers at the state's website.

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