MINNEAPOLIS — Mayor Jacob Frey Tuesday signed an emergency regulation lifting the mask mandate for Minneapolis. Within hours, St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter’s Office announced that the mandate will also be lifted on their side of the river Wednesday.
While Gov. Tim Walz lifted Minnesota’s statewide mask mandate in mid-May, Minneapolis and St. Paul leaders chose to keep their respective local mask mandates in place until June.
In a press release announcing the decision, Frey’s office highlighted the city’s high vaccination rates. As of Tuesday, Frey said 78.6% of the city’s residents aged 15 or over had received at least one dose. Nearly 70% of those residents are considered fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
“After a thorough review of public health data, Minneapolis is reaching vaccination rates above the recommended threshold for safely lifting this policy – but it doesn’t mean the pandemic is over,” Frey said in the release. “Our team at the local level will continue working with trusted community partners and neighboring jurisdictions to expand our outreach efforts in BIPOC and immigrant neighborhoods.”
Masks will still be required for everyone inside schools. Minneapolis Public Schools and other local jurisdictions can set their own mask policies.
Many in the retail industry celebrated the announcement, describing the past few weeks as “confusing” for customers because of mismatched state and local policies on mask mandates.
Michael Druskin, the CEO of Jaxon Grey in the North Loop, said he’ll let customers decide what they’re comfortable with but won’t require masks as a business.
“It’s fun to see people’s faces again,” he said.
Across the street, at MartinPatrick3, CEO Dana Swindler echoed those sentiments.
“I think it’s about time,” Swindler said. “[Over the past few weeks,] we’ve had customers come in without masks on, that live in Golden Valley or St. Louis Park, or Edina, and now we don’t have to worry about people not wearing masks.”
Frey said Minneapolis will continue to emphasize vaccine equity and inclusion with measures including free vaccinations at public housing high rises, door-to-door outreach, and regular email communication with business owners in English, Spanish and Somali.
In a statement from Mayor Carter, the mandate will be lifted Wednesday in St. Paul despite not reaching the intended “benchmark.” Carter also urged residents to continue to get vaccinated.
“While we are yet to reach the benchmarks set by local public health experts, the reality of a maskless Minneapolis limits the logic and efficacy of maintaining a masking order alone,” said Mayor Carter in a statement. “We are lifting Saint Paul’s mask requirement and continuing to urge residents to get vaccinated as soon as possible.”