Governor Tim Walz is ending Minnesota’s statewide mask mandate today (Fri), but urging Minnesotans who are not fully vaccinated to follow new C-D-C guidance and continue to wear face coverings indoors.  It’s still recommended that everyone — vaccinated or not — wear masks in medical settings and on public transit — and Walz says some organizations will still require it.

Private businesses and municipalities are still allowed to have mask mandates.  And officials say Minnesota’s Safe Learning plan, along with existing face-covering guidance for schools and child care settings, remain in effect.

The governor was asked, why didn’t he keep the mask mandate in place for those who have not been fully vaccinated?

“Because we get into a situation that I think is untenable.   We would have got into a vaccine passport — and I know there’s a validity around this argument, but it is highly politically-charged.   And I think we’re at a point right now where we’ve asked all along, and now we’re really asking that, for people to show respect for their neighbors and the personal responsibility.”

Walz was asked, why not keep the mask mandate in place for those not fully vaccinated?

“The confusion that would be caused by this, and the onus that would then be put on individual businesses, would be almost untenable and unworkable.”

Walz is asking Minnesotans who are not fully vaccinated to continue showing personal responsibility by wearing a mask out of respect for their neighbors.

Walz stresses that lifting the mask mandate does *not* mean people don’t need to have the COVID vaccine:

“Get vaccinated.   These variants are still out there.   We are still the fourth-highest state with infection rates.   That number is dropping off pretty precipitously the last several days, as we thought it would, but we still need to manage this.”

What about parents who are fully vaccinated, but their children are not?  State Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm says:

“The CDC guidance today and the strength of the evidence that’s been growing, suggests that parents don’t need to worry that they might be putting their children at risk if they don’t themselves continue to mask.  If they are fully vaccinated, they are not at risk of transmitting to their children.”

Standing near Governor Walz as he made the announcement, state Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said she has “really mixed feelings” about lifting the statewide mask mandate:

“My ambivalence about this or my concern about this is that there are still an awful lot of people in Minnesota who are not vaccinated.   We’re making great progress — we’re at 61 percent… of the 16-plus population — but 61 percent is not nearly enough to keep this virus suppressed.”

Malcolm contends eliminating the mask mandate gets rid of the sense of urgency, and makes it easier for people to say the pandemic is over and not be vaccinated.

Malcolm says her anxiety over lifting the mask mandate is that….

“When things are no longer a rule or a mandate, people think therefore everything is safe — and people may translate this guidance as meaning that the pandemic is over.”

Employment and Economic Development Commissioner Steve Grove says he knows that businesses, without a statewide mask mandate, will each manage this differently…

“But I think we want to be clear that we don’t expect businesses to be sort of  ‘cops at the door’ for customers coming in, and asking for vaccine cards and having to sort of mitigate this on their own.  That is a situation that will be rife with conflict….  So this really is about personal responsibility.”

Senate Republican Majority Leader Paul Gazelka said about the C-D-C guidance that resulted in the governor lifting the mask mandate:

“This is really, really good news.  Why do we need any emergency powers anymore in Minnesota?  It’s time for them to go.”

Governor Walz indicated he’ll renew the peacetime emergency today (Fri) and again in 30 days.  He says most COVID restrictions are either gone or going away, but he still needs emergency powers to facilitate vaccine distribution and other important functions.