Governor Walz Mandates Masks Throughout Minnesota
MN Governor Walz Announces Next Steps in State’s Response to COVID-19 – Statewide Mask Mandate
Governor Walz Announces Next Steps in Response to COVID-19: Statewide Mask Mandate
In a move that was widely anticipated Wednesday, Gov. Tim Walz ordered all Minnesotans to wear masks in stores and other indoor public spaces. The Emergency Executive Order 20-81 mandate, which takes effect Saturday, comes as part of the state’s response to control the spread of the novel coronavirus. The mask must cover the nose and mouth, health officials said.
“We said we would use science and we would adjust as the science and the situation warrants us to do so,” said Walz. “This is the way, the cheapest, the most effective way for us to open up our businesses, for us to get our kids back in school, for us to keep our grandparents healthy, and for us to get back that life we all miss so much.”
Several Minnesota cities got a head start in requiring masks, including Minneapolis, Edina and Minnetonka. Golden Valley approved its own emergency ordinance requiring masks Tuesday night. As of July 14, Golden Valley had 222 confirmed cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic began resulting in 22 deaths, city officials said. Minnesota joins 28 other states in have some sort of mask requirement.
Many large retailers, such as Target and Cub Foods, also recently announced a mask requirement to shop inside their stores. However, Republican legislative leaders call a statewide mask mandate government outreach.
“Once again, I find myself asking why one-size-fits-all is the only option for a mask mandate,” said Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-East Gull Lake. “Businesses and individuals are already requiring and wearing masks in most situations, so the mandate feels like a heavy-handed, broad approach that won’t work well for every situation.”
Gazelka believes by the governor requiring masks, the dials should move forward to, allowing kids to go to school and businesses to operate more freely.
Walz believes not having a mandate for the entire state could eventually overwhelm rural hospitals, citing advice from public health officials and doctors.
Research on Masks
Public health experts recommend the use of masks. According to the CDC, “cloth face coverings are a critical tool in the fight against COVID-19 that could reduce the spread of the disease, particularly when used universally within communities.”
The city of Golden Valley pointed to a recent study that found that after three weeks of mask mandates in 15 states and the District of Columbia, the daily COVID-19 growth rate slowed by two percentage points, resulting in as many as 230,000 to 450,000 COVID-19 cases possibly averted by May 22.
Dr. Leslie Baken, infectious disease specialist at Robbinsdale-based North Memorial Health, cited a study that if at least 95% of people wear masks in public, there’s a 30% drop in COVID deaths. Doctors also mention that 40% of people with COVID do not have symptoms.
“Using a mask in public, and in particularly in closed spaces, will slow the spread of COVID-19,” said Baken.
Not Wearing a Mask is “Not a Crime”
Governor Walz also responded to questions about enforcement. Not a wearing a mask is a petty misdemeanor with a possible fine not to exceed $100. Walz says he doesn’t want enforcement to be an issue.
“It is not a crime to not wear a mask,” said Walz. “It sure isn’t very neighborly. I would say it’s a bit reckless in terms of what we know now.”
Children ages 5 and under are exempt, as well as people who have medical conditions such that a mask would compromise their breathing ability. Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm says children 2 and under should definitely not wear a mask, but children above 2 years old could wear one if parents want them to do so.
The emergency order includes mask wearing for public transportation and taxis. People also should wear masks moving about inside a restaurant, but obviously not while eating.
Walz says if there’s a high percentage of mask wearing, it’s possible all kids could return to school, though he could not make that a guarantee.
“My goal is to get kids back in the classroom,” said Walz. “If that can be done safely, I’m going to do that. Do I believe that masking is a role in making that happen? Absolutely.”
Lt. Governor Shares Personal Story
During the press conference, Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan paused to reflect on the passing of her brother, Ron Golden. Flanagan said her brother died of complications due to COVID-19 four months ago while he was undergoing treatment for cancer.
“To some he was a statistic, the second person in the state of Tennessee to die from COVID-19, but to me he was my big brother,” said Flanagan. “Despite all we have learned, the virus is still unpredictable. We do not know what the long-term effects are.”
Flanagan went on to say, “I don’t care what your background is, your political affiliation, your identity, I don’t want your family to have to experience what my family has gone through. It’s that simple.”