Twin Cities mayors won’t follow experts, will keep mask mandates in place for now

Gov. Tim Walz officially lifted the mask mandate Friday afternoon.

Left: St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter/Twitter. Right: Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey/Facebook.

The mayors of Minneapolis and St. Paul, both Democrats, plan to keep their mask mandates in place for the time being, breaking with the advice of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

An updated guidance released Thursday by the CDC said that “fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear a mask or physically distance in any setting.”

In response, Democratic Gov. Tim Walz announced that he will drop his statewide mask mandate, which has been in place since July 25. However, private businesses and local jurisdictions can continue to require masks.

“The Minneapolis indoor mask requirement will stay in place while we review the data, consult our health experts, and analyze the unique circumstances and vaccination rates for our communities across our city,” Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey said in a press release.

“After such review we can reasonably project a timeline for lifting the requirement. That projection and final decision will follow the same health-based philosophy as when we first instituted the mask requirement a year ago. Minneapolis is nearing the end of this long journey, and our city is coming alive again — so we take this precaution to continue that consistent march in the right direction. There is good reason for hope in the Twin Cities,” he added.

Hennepin County, where Minneapolis is located, has a vaccination rate of 71%, according to the Minnesota Department of Health. That surpasses Gov. Walz’s previous benchmark of hitting a 70% vaccination rate before lifting mask requirements.

Minneapolis City Council President Lisa Bender said that the mandate will stay in place because only 28% of black people and 35% of Latino people have been vaccinated in Minneapolis, compared to 71% of white people.

In St. Paul, Mayor Melvin Carter said he would “work with our public health professionals to determine when mask measures can be safely lifted at the local level.”

He then announced later Friday afternoon that he will continue to require masks “indoors in all city-controlled facilities and at all businesses licensed by the City of Saint Paul at all times when social distancing of at least six feet is not maintained.”

St. Paul is located in Ramsey County, which has a vaccination rate of 68%, one of the highest in the state.