Mask mandates reinstated in the Twin Cities amid omicron surge

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In the midst of surging COVID-19 cases caused in part by the highly transmissible omicron variant, on Wednesday, both St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter and Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey issued executive orders renewing the requirement for facemasks.

The St. Paul order applies to all city-controlled facilities and all businesses licensed in the Twin Cities when social distancing of at least six feet is not maintained. “Reinstating the masking requirement is an important step in keeping our communities safe amid the surge of COVID-19 cases in St. Paul,” said Mayor Melvin Carter in a statement. 

“This, alongside our work to ensure St. Paul residents have the tools and access they need to get vaccinated are paramount to recovering from this pandemic and building toward our future,” said Carter.

The Minneapolis order includes, but is not limited to, bars, restaurants, museums, theaters, schools, recreational facilities, retail locations, and service offices. “We have to keep our city healthy and moving. Wearing a mask is an obvious next step to do both,” said Frey. 

“The data is clear,” continued Frey. “The surging numbers of cases and hospitalizations from the omicron variant demand immediate action to keep our residents healthy while making every effort to allow schools and businesses to remain safe and open across our Twin Cities.”

Frey’s order also noted that in Minneapolis, Black, Indigenous, people of color, and immigrant community members are testing at higher rates for the virus.

The COVID-19 infection is transmitted predominately by inhalation of respiratory droplets and studies show that masks and face coverings block the release of respiratory droplets into the environment and can also reduce the wearer’s exposure to droplets from others. Viral particles spread more readily indoors and when people are closer together for longer periods of time.

The CDC recommends that fully vaccinated Americans wear a mask indoors in parts of the country that fall into a high-risk category—the Twin Cities fall into that category.

Because of the omicron variant, which is reportedly more transmissible than delta and also better at evading vaccines, in recent days, many health officials have recommended people use KN95, N95, or three-layered surgical masks that offer more protection than cloth masks. “Cloth masks are not going to cut it with omicron,” said Virginia Tech researcher Linsey Marr to NPR.

Information provided, in part, by the City of Minneapolis and the City of St Paul.