Golden Valley Council Votes to End Mask Mandate
The Golden Valley City Council voted Tuesday night to rescind a citywide mask mandate. The change takes effect immediately.
In voting to end the mandate, council members cited a significant drop in cases and wastewater treatment plant data used to detect the prevalence of coronavirus infections.
The Golden Valley mandate had gone into effect Jan. 11 near the beginning of the spike in COVID-19 cases related to omicron variant.
Golden Valley Mayor Shep Harris says he hopes the mandate isn’t something the city has to repeat.
“If we have to go back to this again, if we see numbers spike again, if it’s Passover, Easter break and kids come back to school and we see spikes again, I won’t hesitate for a moment if we have to go back to this,” said Harris.
Minnesota Department of Health data released Thursday showed the test positivity rate has fallen below 10 percent, a threshold officials consider “high risk” for viral spread. That rate as of Feb. 9 is 9.9 percent, the lowest since Christmas. Department of Health data has a one-week “lag period” to verify cases.
However, health officials are increasingly relying on other metrics due to the significant use of at-home tests. One such metric is testing the wastewater from Metropolitan Council treatment plants.
“The case numbers are maybe becoming less reliable because folks have a lot more access to at-home testing and are not reporting those tests to the county,” said Maria Cisneros, Golden Valley city attorney, citing a conversation she had with a Hennepin County official.
Decision data driven
Golden Valley City Council member Kimberly Sanberg said she heard from residents wanting to end the mandate, but based on her decision on health data, not other reasons. She mentioned a few residents invoked either the Holocaust or the Civil Rights Movement over having to wear a face covering.
“It should go without saying that is not the same thing,” said Sanberg. “And I just want to say regardless of how I vote tonight. It is not because I think that either of those things is remotely acceptable to say.”
Harris said he also received some negative feedback on the mandate. He also said he took one threatening phone call on the subject.
“I do not think it’s a violation of individual liberties,” said Harris. “I do not think it’s a Holocaust, especially a person who is Jewish. I can tell you it’s far from the Holocaust.”
Harris said his mother-in-law passed away recently unrelated to COVID. But he said she wasn’t able to get into a hospital right away because many of the beds were taken for COVID patients at the time.
While masks are no longer required in Golden Valley, city officials and the CDC still recommends their use.
“I ask people to go beyond what the best is that they can do for themselves and try to think of other people,” said Harris.