St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter and Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey announced on Wednesday that both cities are reinstating mask mandates for city buildings and licensed businesses when social distancing cannot be maintained.

The mask mandates in the two major Minnesota cities had been lifted all summer and fall, but Carter attributed the mandates to “highly contagious COVID variants.”

“Reinstating the masking requirement is an important step in keeping our communities safe amid the surge of COVID cases in Saint Paul,” said Carter. “This, alongside our work to ensure Saint Paul residents have the tools and access they need to get vaccinated are paramount to recovering from this pandemic and building toward our future.”

Carter’s press release goes on to explain that “COVID infection is transmitted predominately by inhalation of respiratory droplets.”

The release added that “studies” have shown that “masks and face coverings block the release of respiratory droplets into the environment and can also reduce the wearer’s exposure to droplets from others.”

However, CNN’s medical analyst Leana Wen recently called cloth face masks “facial decorations.”

“​​Cloth masks are little more than facial decorations. There’s no place for them in light of Omicron,” Wen said.

St. Paul reported “there are approximately 536 new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people per day in Ramsey County, which places Ramsey County in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s high transmission category (which includes any location over 100 or more cases per 100,000). The positivity rate in Ramsey County is currently more than 13%.”

Frey simultaneously posted a similar order that said, “We have to keep our city healthy and moving. Wearing a mask is an obvious next step to do both.” Minneapolis is now requiring face coverings in “all spaces of public accommodation.”

The order from Frey said that it is a “priority that race and equity be of paramount consideration in enacting and carrying out emergency regulations during the COVID pandemic” and explained that “in Minneapolis, Black, Indigenous, people of color, and immigrant community members are testing at a higher rate.”

Both cities asked that either medical grade or cloth face masks be worn. Neither of the cities indicated how long the orders would remain in effect.

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Hayley Feland is a reporter with The Minnesota Sun and The Wisconsin Daily Star | Star News Network. Follow Hayley on Twitter or like her Facebook page. Send news tips to [email protected].
Photo “Mayor Jacob Frey” by Jacob Frey.