ST. PAUL — Hours after Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey announced Tuesday, June 1, that the city is lifting its COVID-19 mask requirement that has been in place since May 2020, St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter’s office announced that the capital city would ditch indoor masking as well, effective Wednesday, June 2.
“While we are yet to reach the benchmarks set by local public health experts, the reality of a maskless Minneapolis limits the logic and efficacy of maintaining a masking order alone,” said Carter, in a written statement issued to the media at 7 p.m. “We are lifting St. Paul’s mask requirement and continuing to urge residents to get vaccinated as soon as possible.”
A spokesman for Carter’s office did not return calls for comment Tuesday evening, but Carter had previously expressed reluctance to lift a citywide indoor mask mandate without a stronger vote of confidence from local public health officials. Carter planned to sign an executive order on Wednesday officially lifting St. Paul’s municipal mask requirement.
Among his concerns, communities of color, including Hmong and Black populations, have been hit harder by COVID-19 than the population at large. St. Paul, which is roughly 57% white, is home to larger minority populations than most other metro cities. And American Indians, Blacks and Latinos lag in vaccinations compared with their state population figures, according to state vaccine data. Hmong leaders have recently criticized the state Department of Public Health for not taking a harder look at COVID deaths in the Hmong community.
Both cities imposed their indoor mask mandates last year two months before Gov. Tim Walz issued a statewide face covering order. Frey said Tuesday that because more than 78% of Minneapolis residents have received at least one dose of vaccine, he was convinced to scrap the mask mandate. It was unclear Tuesday what percentage of St. Paul had received at least a single dose. The statewide mask order ended on May 14.
Private businesses are free to set their own policies now that each city’s mandate has expired.
Frey noted that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still recommends that those who are not fully vaccinated should continue to wear masks. He said regulation based on a person’s vaccination status is “very hard if not impossible.”