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COVID In Minnesota: Walz Signs Executive Order, Ends Statewide Mask Mandate

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) - Minnesota's statewide mask mandate is no longer in effect.

Gov. Tim Walz signed an executive order Friday afternoon to lift the mask mandate following updated guidance from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, which said fully vaccinated people can forgo their masks in most indoor and outdoor settings.

Local governments still have the ability to instill their mandates; both Minneapolis and St. Paul's will remain in effect for the time being. Private businesses too are able to enforce their own guidelines.

However the CDC guidance does not apply to health care settings, such as hospitals, doctors' offices, and long-term care facilities. Correctional facilities and homeless shelters will also still require masks, as will planes, trains, and other forms of public transportation, including Metro Transit.

Previously, Gov. Tim Walz's timeline indicated that the mandate would be lifted on July 1 or sooner if 70% of Minnesotans aged 16 and older were fully vaccinated. State health officials said Friday that roughly 60% of Minnesotans in that age bracket had received at least one vaccine dose; 50% had completed the series.

"As we stand on the cusp of putting this pandemic behind us, Minnesotans have a lot to be proud of.  Just this week, President Biden recognized Minnesota for our nation-leading vaccination effort and response to COVID-19," said Walz. "From churches, to baseball games, to pop-up clinics, to metro transit buses that bring the vaccine to your doorstep, we're making it as easy as possible for Minnesotans to get the life-saving vaccine."

The CDC defines "fully vaccinated" as two weeks after the second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, or two weeks after the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

"The science demonstrates that if you are fully vaccinated, you are protected," CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said Thursday. "It is the people who are not fully vaccinated in those settings, who might not be wearing a mask, who are not protected."

Early Friday afternoon Walz extended the peacetime emergency in Minnesota, allowing him to quickly support vaccination efforts and virus testing capacity.

"The peacetime emergency gives us the tools we need to protect Minnesotans against evictions, keep a close eye on the spread of vavriants, protect the gains we've made, operate walk-up testing sites, and distribute the vaccine quickly and equitably," said Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan.

But Minnesota Republicans have been urging Walz to end his executive powers and his lift restrictions on businesses for the past year; the CDC announcement renewed their push.

Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka said it was "about time" Walz lifted the mandate and Jennifer Carnahan, chair of the Republican party, said the mandate has "harmed our economy and business, children's education, senior's health and the overall vibrancy of our lives."

"Walz showed us over and over again that he does not think Minnesotans are smart enough to make the best decision for themselves and their families, so he made the decisions for us unilaterally without input or oversight from the Legislature," Carnahan added.

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