Rochester city officials haven’t ruled out extending a mask mandate when the statewide order expires.
The city started requiring face coverings in early July to prevent the spread of COVID-19, about two weeks before Gov. Tim Walz enacted a statewide mandate.
The city requirement officially expires with the statewide order, now set to expire on July 1 or when 70 percent of eligible state residents have received at least one dose of vaccine, whichever comes first.
“Public health guidance and local vaccination rates will inform whether a new or renewed local mandate is considered following the end of Gov. Walz's Declaration of Local Emergency related to COVID-19,” a news release from the city stated Wednesday.
A new mandate would require Rochester City Council approval.
During her "Morning with the Mayor" livestream Thursday, Rochester Mayor Kim Norton said she strongly doubts a new city mandate would be sought unless new risks emerge.
"I have no inkling at this point that anyone on the city council or myself at this point is interested in continuing the mask mandate beyond the governor's," she said.
Later in the day, Walz said he planned to lift the state mandate Friday after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control guidelines changed to state people who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 can go without face masks in most settings. The federal guidance does acknowledge that state and local mandates could remain in place.
Walz also said businesses and workplaces not addressed in the federal guidelines will have the ability to set their own policies around masks.
As of Monday, 74.3 percent of Olmsted County residents 16 and older have received a dose of vaccine, and 66.2 percent were considered fully vaccinated. When the total population is considered, 57.9 percent had received a single dose by Monday and 51.6 percent were considered fully vaccinated.
The county reported 26 new confirmed COVID-19 cases Wednesday, with 132 cases considered active. The county has averaged about 17 new cases a day during the last week.
Rochester’s COVID-19 risk dial has been at “high” after temporarily dipping into “moderate” in March. The city dial, which ranges from low to severe, is adjusted on Fridays after city staff look at a variety of local indicators, as well as trends in the state and nation.
In Wednesday’s statement, Norton acknowledged community collaboration was crucial in achieving local vaccination goals and tamping down the spread of the virus.
“I want to again thank our community members for their help in slowing the spread of COVID-19 and now having one of the highest vaccination percentages in Minnesota,” she said. “This continues to be an example of how much this community cares.”
She said city officials will continue to work with community partners as things reopen.
The Rochester City Council started meeting in person this month and the May 17 meeting will be open to attendance by residents, but numbers allowed will be limited.
The meetings continue to be available through public access channels -- Spectrum cable channel 180 or 188 and Metronet channel 80 -- and the rochestermn.gov website.