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Answering mask questions from viewers

With Governor Walz lifting the statewide mask mandate, we're answering your lingering mask questions about kids, private businesses, schools, and other areas.

Will the governor give up his emergency powers?

Throughout the pandemic, Minnesota has been under a state of peacetime emergency, giving the Governor decision making powers.
Some of you asked whether he'll give that up after rescinding the mask mandate.
We found out, not for least another 30 days after the executive council voted to extend it Friday. The Governor said there are other issues tied to it that would take a hit.

“The FEMA site would close immediately, all the work we're doing around equity would cease, the folks brought in from other agencies to assist this would be moved back to where they started and 40-million dollars in supplemental nutrition programs for people hit by Covid would end,” said Gov. Walz.

Isn’t it too risky to lift the mandate so early?

Some of you are wondering if lifting the mask mandate is too risky.
MDH says there's a lot of virus still circulating and vaccination rates among the BIPOC community in particular is low -- less than 30-percent.
The Commissioner says it's impossible to enforce different rules depending on people's vaccination status and takes comfort in new data showing just how effective vaccines are.

“We're more confident now that when we're vaccinated, we're not putting other people at risk unknowingly,” said Jan Malcolm.

How do you plan to monitor who is vaccinated when they enter a store?

Another question you're asking is how businesses and gathering places will monitor who's vaccinated when they enter.
The state is now leaving it up to your favorite spot and local jurisdictions to decide whether it will require you to wear a mask or not.

Steve Grove, the Economic Development Commissioner, says, “We don't expect businesses to be sort of cops at the door for customers coming in and asking for vaccine cards and to mitigate this on their own.”

What if I’m vaccinated, but my kids are not?

Despite the CDC's new guidance, masks will be required in Minnesota's public grade schools through the end of the year according to the Safe Learning Plan. But some parents are asking for more guidance if their children can't get vaccinated for various reason. The Department of Health says -- when in doubt, wearing a mask is always a good idea, and asks people to take personal responsibility.

“We were feeling good about things and now, do we really want to take our kids out and about,” muses Kris Ehresman, the state’s infectious disease director. “I think the message to all of us in the community is that we want to make sure we're taking the mitigation steps that are necessary to protect the people around us.”

If masks were intended to protect others, why remove the mandate for the vaccinated? 

According to the CDC, and Dr. William Morice, President of Mayo Clinic labs, mounting evidence shows that vaccinated individuals aren't just protecting themselves from severe illness, but also protecting others.

"We know that, from studies done at the Mayo Clinic that fully vaccinated people are much, much less likely to spread the virus than someone who is unvaccinated,” said Dr. Morice. “That's even true when the virus was really being spread in our communities and now that it's going down, the chance that someone that would be vaccinated would be exposed, and then spread it, goes even lower.”

How will businesses monitor who is vaccinated when they enter a store? Do we need to show our vaccine card at every establishment and carry it while we are inside?

Even though the Minnesota Department of Health, and CDC guidelines still call for unvaccinated people to wear a mask indoors, the state is lifting it’s mandate for everyone. It’s also telling businesses not to attempt to distinguish between vaccinated and unvaccinated customers. If a business or city chooses to keep a mask requirement, the state says it will apply to all customers equally.

"We don't think it's possible to craft an order, and executive order, that targets only the unvaccinated for a mandate approach,” said Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm. “But we will continue our best efforts to educate and urge unvaccinated Minnesotans to still take those precautions."

Will we still have to wear a mask at outdoor professional sports?

The Minnesota Twins and the St Paul Saints will both no longer require fans to wear a mask in the outdoor areas of the ballpark because the CDC, state and Major League Baseball guidance have all changed in the last 24 hours, but the teams will still require masks if you go into indoor areas, which will keep them in line with city policies.

Any advice for Minnesotans moving forward?

"We all need to be responsible,” said Dr. Morice. “I mean, if you're a vaccinated individual and you feel like you might have some symptoms, wear a mask even though you're vaccinated. If you're unvaccinated, recognize that that doesn't mean that, because the mask mandate has gone away, you don't need to take some precautions to protect yourself like masking and social distancing.”

What should people do if they can’t get a vaccine for medical reasons, or their children are too young to receive a vaccine?

Dr. Morice says if you are at a higher risk of severe illness and are going into a public space where mask use will be minimal, and N-95 mask will offer a much higher level of protection. He says they were largely reserved for hospitals early in the pandemic, but are now easier to find.

"Thankfully, on the one hand, as more kids have been getting ill with the virus, we’ve found that the majority do not get severely ill,” Dr. Morice said. “But there are some severe illnesses that can occur in children. So really work on understanding how you want to keep your child safe and what's your threat level or risk tolerance. Really just be thoughtful about it because the virus is still here."