MINNEAPOLIS — Amid rising cases of the omicron variant of COVID-19, both St. Paul and Minneapolis mayors signed on to new mask requirements for local businesses and city buildings.
Mask mandates for both cities go into effect on Thursday, Jan. 6 at 5 p.m., however there are a few differences in the approach by each city.
In St. Paul, masks are required indoors at all times when social distancing of six feet or more can't be maintained inside city-controlled property or businesses licensed by the city. Masks can be removed for eating or drinking, and there are exceptions for young children at risk of suffocating or people who can't medically tolerate wearing a mask.
"Reinstating the masking requirement is an important step in keeping our communities safe amid the surge of COVID-19 cases in Saint Paul," said Mayor Melvin Carter in a statement.
In a statement on behalf of the St. Paul Area Chamber, president and CEO B Kyle agreed that the spike in COVID cases is cause for concern, but said "another mandate puts the burden of enforcement on businesses and their front-line workers."
"We're also concerned about the competitive disadvantage that comes with having different rules for different communities," said Kyle. "We hope that individuals will be as responsible as possible to protect themselves and others."
You can read more about Mayor Carter's executive order on masking here. Please note that, Wednesday evening, Mayor Carter rescinded executive orders 2022-1 and 2022-2 pertaining to the new masking policies, and replaced them with an updated version, 2022-3 — which you can find at the link above.
In Minneapolis, Mayor Jacob Frey's order affects all businesses within city limits and "places of public accommodation."
The order defines a place of public accommodation as "any indoor locations where members of the public may gather, visit, or patronize and can include, but are not limited to, bars, restaurants, museums, theaters, schools, recreational facilities, retail locations, and service offices."
The Minneapolis and St. Paul mask mandates will affect this upcoming weekend's professional sports games, including Saturday's Wild game at St. Paul's Xcel Energy Center and Sunday's Vikings game at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. Fans will be required to wear masks in both venues.
Both teams said they will continue to comply with city and state guidelines "in the best interests of health and safety."
There are exemptions for children under the age of 2 and people who can't medically tolerate a face covering, and for eating and drinking.
"The data is clear. The surging numbers of cases and hospitalizations from the Omicron variant demand immediate action to keep our residents healthy while making every effort to allow schools and businesses to remain safe and open across our Twin Cities," Mayor Frey said in a statement.
It's true. COVID-19 cases in the Twin Cities are surging.
According to MDH's latest data available, 1,405 people are being treated for COVID in hospitals around the state, with 1,120 in non-ICU beds and 285 in the ICU.
Hospital bed space continues to be sparse across the state.
There are no staffed pediatric ICU and non-ICU beds available in the central portion of the state.
In the metro, there are six staffed pediatric ICU beds but just one staffed adult ICU bed available.
Case-wise, the state has seen a steady increase in cases since August, with a large spike of omicron cases stemming from the holiday season.
MDH said omicron, considerably more contagious than other variants, now accounts for around 90% of current cases.
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