Walz drops mask mandate following CDC guidance 

The polarizing mandate has been in place since July 25.

Gov. Tim Walz announces an end to Minnesota's mask mandate Thursday night. (Minnesota Governor's Office/YouTube)

Minnesota’s mask mandate will come to an end Friday, a maskless Gov. Tim Walz announced at a Thursday night press conference.

The polarizing mandate has been in place since July 25. Walz said last week that he would lift the mandate on July 1 or when 70% of the eligible population received a vaccine — whichever came first.

But a new guidance released Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that “fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear a mask or physically distance in any setting, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance.”

“This great day is possible because vaccines have proven to be effective,” Walz said in a statement. “Once you are fully vaccinated you are protected. You can confidently return to the people you love and things that you miss — all without a mask. The message is clear — get vaccinated and let’s put the pandemic behind us once and for all.”

Walz defended the use of masks at his press conference, saying they “were a critical tool in the early stages, and still remain today, of stopping or slowing the transmission of coronavirus.”

“Minnesotans who aren’t protected should continue to wear a mask and stay safe,” Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm added. There is, however, no mask mandate for unvaccinated people, which Walz acknowledged would require the use of “politically-charged” vaccine passports.

Private businesses and local jurisdictions can continue to require masks.

“Fully vaccinated” is defined as two weeks after receiving the final dose of the vaccine — either the second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Republicans have repeatedly urged the governor to drop the mask mandate, especially since vaccines became available to all adults on March 30. Reacting to the news, Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka said “it’s about time,” but expressed disappointment that “our kids will still be masked in classrooms and when playing sports.”

Walz has yet to indicate when he will suspend his COVID-19 peacetime emergency declaration.

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