Minneapolis lifts mask mandate, St. Paul follows

Masks are no longer mandated in the city of Minneapolis and a mandate will soon be lifted in St. Paul, according to city leaders.

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey announced the lifting of the mask mandate Tuesday after 78.6% of residents have received at least one vaccine shot. 69% of residents over the age of 15 are fully vaccinated. 

The Mayor’s office also pointed to the COVID-19 test positivity rates and 7-day new case rolling average continue to fall. City leaders say one reason for keeping the masking mandate in place for more than two weeks after the state lifted theirs was because vaccination rates were low in some communities of color.

Gretchen Musicant, commissioner of health for the City of Minneapolis, says because populations of color tend to skew younger, fewer people of color had early access to the vaccine. Plus, she says there have been issues with access within those communities and potentially a lack of communication about the importance of the vaccine.

"By giving populations some additional time, keeping the mask mandate on, keeping people protected, we were able to make some headway in the vaccine rate for communities that have a high number of people of color," Musicant said.

She says they were tracking five specific zip codes where vaccination rates were low. Once three of them reached a more than 50 percent vaccination rate, they decided to lift the mandate.

She says communication of vaccination efforts within Minneapolis, and those communities lagging behind in vaccination rates, will continue until more people are vaccinated.

"Really what we’re interested in terms of getting near the finish line is getting many more people fully vaccinated and then we know that we’ll have broader protection against some of these variants that are emerging," Musicant said. 

In municipal buildings, visitors and employees will be encouraged, but not required to wear masks.

Masks are still required for everyone inside schools until the last day of school as per the state’s "Safe Learning Plan." 

St. Paul officially lifted its mask mandate Wednesday, as Mayor Melvin Carter signed Executive Order 2021-25.

As of June 1, according to data from health officials, 70.6% of Ramsey County residents ages 12 and older have received at least one dose of the vaccine, and case rates, positivity rates, and hospitalizations continue to decline deeply. 

"Thanks to the heroic efforts of our health care providers, Saint Paul is poised to meet the benchmarks set by local public health experts in a matter of days," said Mayor Melvin Carter. "But our work is not done; we urge all residents to continue taking precautions and to get vaccinated as soon as possible."