Statewide effort to distribute 4 million masks to Minnesota businesses before mandate takes effect

The requirement to wear a mask indoors in Minnesota goes into effect on July 25, 2020. (FOX 9)

Starting Saturday, Minnesotans will need a mask when they go inside public spaces and businesses.

“We’re looking to reopen the economy that’s what we hear from our members every day, but we also want to balance public health and health of employees and customers,” said Jonathan Weinhagen of the Minneapolis Regional Chamber.

To help make sure businesses don’t have to turn anyone away without a mask, the state has come up with a plan.

“These disposable masks will be available, we’re working with chambers in all 88 counties in the state to disperse these it’s a one-time shipment again just to help get things started,” said Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development Commissioner Steve Grove in Wednesday's press conference.

More than 4 million masks will be handed out to businesses. They’re coming from the state’s 10-million mask stockpile. Minneapolis Regional Chamber will be in charge of the effort in Hennepin County.

“So we’ll take delivery on Monday and as soon as that happens, we’re in the process of doing outreach to local chambers to other groups and we’ll have distribution sites all across the county,” said Weinhagen.
Who gets what is based on county population and employment numbers. The top three shipments will go to Hennepin County (1.4 million masks), Ramsey County (456,000 masks) and Dakota County (284,000 masks). 

“At first blush when we thought out 500,000 masks, the bigness of it overwhelmed me for a hot minute and then as we simply sat down to talk through it, it’s a very straightforward process logistically,” said B Kyle of the St. Paul Area Chamber of Commerce. 

The St. Paul Area Chamber of Commerce will lead distribution efforts for Ramsey County. There will be four distribution sites, including at St. Paul RiverCentre, that will take place Monday through Wednesday of next week. If businesses can’t pick up, there will be drop-off options too.

“It’s going to make the difference of a customer coming in and not being prepared and a business being able to say, ‘Let us help you, please come in and let us serve you and here’s a mask and thank you for coming,’ it’s great,” said B Kyle.