Minnesota is now joining more than two dozen states where the use of face coverings in public spaces is mandatory to curb the spread of COVID-19.
Gov. Tim Walz on Wednesday signed an executive order that requires all people to wear face masks or face coverings in indoor places of public accommodation and for workers in outdoor spaces where social distancing may be difficult. The mandate is set to go into effect Saturday.
People with a medical condition, mental health condition or disability that makes it difficult for a person to wear a mask or face covering is exempt from the order. Children under 5 years old are also exempt, however if they are between the ages of 2 and 5 they are encouraged to wear masks if able.
Face coverings may be removed when eating or drinking and when taking part in indoor physical exercise such as in a gym where the level of exertion makes wearing a mask difficult among other cases.
The governor’s office said while the hope of the executive order is voluntary compliance, a person who violates the mandate could face a petty misdemeanor and face a fine of up to $100. Businesses that are violating the mandate can be punished by a fine of up to $1,000.
On Tuesday, Walz hinted he would act on face masks soon and appealed to conservatives by pointing to Republican governors in states such as Alabama who have issued statewide mask requirements.
“The simplest thing we can do to get back in school the simplest thing we can do to open up and make sure our businesses remain open like they are, and the simplest thing Republicans can do to make sure I don’t have to take executive actions around the pandemic is to wear a mask,” Walz said in a news conference Tuesday.
Right now 29 states, including Minnesota, require people to wear face coverings in at least some places. A few states have exempted areas with low rates of COVID-19 infection. In Texas, for example, the mask mandate does not apply to counties with fewer than 20 active COVID-19 cases.
University of St. Thomas professor Dr. Robert Kahn told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS “50% of Republicans wear a mask and about 80% of Democrats wear them, based on terms of reported behavior.”
Dr. Kahn told KSTP he thinks Gov. Walz’s approach is the right balance of “playing to the political middle on this.”
“There is a Red vs. Blue dynamic and it is real,” said Kahn. “It was encouraged, a little bit, by the president and by those who want to say ‘you’re not masking then you’re a symbol of everything that’s wrong with the president and the past four years.'”
Dr. Kahn said not everyone who wears a mask, and not everyone who doesn’t, is necessarily making a political statement and they’ve made their decision based on pragmatic reason.
“There is a bit of symbolism involved here with all of this,” said Kahn. “If there is a symbolic aspect, and it is irreducible, you’re always going to make mental notes about whether someone in the store is masking or not and you need to come up with ways to deal with that.”
To ask questions or report violations of the order that pertain to workers health and safety you can email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 651-284-5050