Gov. Walz Issues Statewide Mask Mandate
Gov. Tim Walz visits Village Market in Minneapolis in early July. Photo courtesy of governor’s office.

Gov. Walz Issues Statewide Mask Mandate

The state will help distribute four million disposable masks to Minnesota businesses.

To the surprise of hardly anyone, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz announced a new executive order mandating statewide wearing of face masks indoors as the latest response to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. Numerous media reports prior to Walz’s 2 p.m. press conference indicated that the governor would be announcing the mandate.

“From the beginning, Minnesota, we said we knew this was going to be a long haul,” said Walz. “We understood that we were going to be balancing public health—individual health—and economic viability at the same time.”

Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said the mandate would go into effect at midnight on Friday evening and would apply to “indoor businesses and indoor public settings.” The state posted extensive information about the mandate on the MDH web site.

“If we can get a 90 to 95 percent compliance [rate], which we’ve seen the science shows, we can reduce the infection rates dramatically,” Walz said.

Organizations and companies began issuing statements of support while the press conference was still in progress.

“The Minnesota Medical Association thanks Gov. Walz for requiring all Minnesotans to wear face masks in indoor public places and businesses,” said MMA president Dr. Keith Stelter in a statement. “Late last month, the MMA and the state’s physicians urged public and private leaders across Minnesota to require the wearing of face masks or face coverings to help control the spread of Covid-19. Since that time, we’ve seen a number of cities and businesses agree that this was a sound strategy to help protect the health of their communities.”

Richfield-based electronics retailer Best Buy Co. Inc. issued a brief statement of support for the governor’s action: “We greatly appreciate Gov. Walz’s leadership on the Covid-19 crisis and fully support a statewide requirement for face coverings. We believe this policy is an appropriate public health response to keep frontline retail workers, customers and our communities safe.”

Best Buy announced its own policy requiring masks in its stores last week.

Of the new guidelines, Walz said, “They go into effect on Saturday morning. You can certainly start today.”

The city of Minneapolis put its mask mandate into place nearly two months ago and has since been followed by many other cities around the state including Duluth, Rochester, Mankato, Winona and St. Cloud.

Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development Commissioner Steve Grove said that the state had four million disposable masks that it could start distributing through chambers of commerce around the state as soon as Friday to businesses that need assistance.

Grove said that state leaders had been talking to “hundreds of business across the state” before implementing the policy.

“No business wants to be the next hot spot for Covid,” said Grove.

Walz and Grove both argued that compliance with the mask mandate will help rather than hurt businesses in the long term.

Grove noted that the state had postable signs for businesses that can be downloaded from the state’s web site.

“We really believe this is an important economic move as much as it is a health move,”  Grove said.