Wearing a face mask while indoors is now a requirement for people ages 6 and older, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz announced Wednesday.
The executive order, which begins Saturday morning, states Minnesotans must wear a face covering in indoor businesses and public settings. It includes private and public businesses, nonprofits, government agencies, public transportation and schools.
The order also requires people to wear masks while waiting outdoors to enter a building. They can be paper or disposable, cloth, scarves, bandannas, neck gaiters, or religious face coverings.
Commissioner Jan Malcolm with the state’s Department of Health said the mandate is another “important step forward” in fighting COVID-19. She said masks help control the spread of the virus, even when simply speaking to another person.
“It’s going to be a new normal for quite a while,” she said.
Gov. Walz said most people are already complying but if 90-95% of people can get on board with the mandate, infection rates could be reduced dramatically.
People are “strongly encouraged” to always keep a face covering with them to be ready to use.
People exempt from the order are those with qualifying medical conditions and children ages 5 and under. Children 2 and older are encouraged to wear a mask if able.
Those allowed to remove their masks are people doing the following activities: Exercising or playing sports inside, public speaking, communicating with a deaf person, receiving medical services like dental exams, or being asked to verify an ID.
Gov. Walz said police will have some masks on hand for those without.
He called the mask mandate the “cheapest, most effective way for us to open up businesses, keep schools open, and keep people healthy.”
He compared the mandate to indoor smoking and seatbelt laws, saying people will adjust.
“That battle raged for a while and then it became the norm,” he said.
Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan echoed the sentiment.
“Adjusting to wearing face masks might be a little uncomfortable but you’ll get used to it,” she said.
“It’s also a way to show as Minnesotans that we care about each other and I think that’s something that we’re good at.”