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Do customers have rights to refuse wearing a mask or face covering?

In a now viral video, a man was kicked out of Costco for refusing to wear a mask. Is this legal?

MINNEAPOLIS — Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey signed an emergency order Thursday that makes wearing a mask or face covering mandatory inside indoor public spaces.

Frey announced during a press conference that face coverings will be required for anyone over the age of two inside retail stores, hotels, government buildings, schools and universities, recreational facilities, service centers and - once they're back open - bars and restaurants. The order will go into effect at 5 p.m. Tuesday, May 26 and will continue until further notice.

"I promised the people of Minneapolis that I would follow the data and take my cues from public health experts,” said Frey.

The new order doesn't require masks, but people will be required to cover their nose and mouth, which could be done with a bandanna or cloth scarf.

This week, a Costco employee was trending online for how he handled an encounter with a customer. The Costco employee told the man to leave the store after he refused to wear a mask. Costco requires every employee and customer in its stores to wear masks that cover the mouth and the nose to slow the spread of the coronavirus. The incident was captured on video and had nearly seven million views.

It left people online asking the following question:  Do customers have any rights?

Davis Senseman - a Minneapolis attorney who works with small business owners and individuals - helped us unmask the law. Senseman said it is not different than the policy that says no service if you do not wear a shirt or shoes inside a business.

“As long as businesses are enforcing that in a nondiscriminatory manner and they are requiring everyone to wear the mask, they have the right on their premises to say if you want to shop here you have to wear a mask,” Senseman said. “Unfortunately, there is a lot of misunderstanding about what rights we have and who we have them against. That is not something the constitution gives you a right to prevent. You can exercise your right by not shopping at that particular store.”  

Senseman said the new law will make it easier for businesses to enforce their policies.

“It is gonna give these business owners an additional argument for it. It is not just me as the clerk at Costco asking you to do this,” Senseman said. “It is me telling you there is a law that says you can't do this.”

Earlier this morning Governor Walz said he would not make it mandatory to wear mask in the state of Minnesota.

“The issue is going to be each individual business owner is going to have to have a plan for what happens if someone doesn't comply,” Senseman said.
In an effort to ensure residents are equipped for this new order, Frey said city staff members are currently working on a Memorial Day public cloth mask drive where residents can donate masks at any local fire station.

People can also contact the city about obtaining a mask if they don't have access to cloth masks.

Frey reiterated that this is not a substitute for social distancing. Residents are asked to continue to keep six feet of distance between others when possible and continue to wash their hands frequently.

As for enforcement, there will be some government agencies that will monitor the public's response to the order, but Frey is asking residents to call 311 to report any violations. The penalty would be a misdemeanor, which carries penalties up to a $1,000 fine, and the city could take action against licenses for businesses who don't comply.

"You're going to have to earn a citation," Frey said. "We're not going to penalize forgetfulness."

A news release from the city asserts that medical research indicates COVID-19 may have a high rate of transmission through respiratory droplets, particularly while indoors, and that wearing a mask can help reduce the risk of community spread. City leaders say research also shows people who are asymptomatic (or have yet to show signs of the virus) can still transmit the virus without knowing they have contracted it.

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KARE 11’s coverage of the coronavirus is rooted in Facts, not Fear. Visit kare11.com/coronavirus for comprehensive coverage, find out what you need to know about the Midwest specifically, learn more about the symptoms, and see what companies in Minnesota are hiring. Have a question? Text it to us at 763-797-7215. And get the latest coronavirus updates sent right to your inbox every morning. Subscribe to the KARE 11 Sunrise newsletter here. Help local families in need: www.kare11.com/give11

The state of Minnesota has set up a hotline for general questions about coronavirus at 651-201-3920 or 1-800-657-3903, available 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

There is also a data portal online at mn.gov/covid19.

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