MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz said Thursday that state will allow people to ditch their masks meant to slow the spread of the coronavirus, an announcement that followed new federal recommendations on face coverings.
Walz said he would sign executive orders Friday ending the mask mandate he enacted by emergency authority in July, although state health officials recommend that people who are not fully vaccinated or may be asymptomatic either get their shots or keep wearing masks.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention earlier Thursday eased mask-wearing guidance for fully vaccinated people, allowing them to stop wearing masks outdoors in crowds and in most indoor settings. President Joe Biden called it a "great day" and Walz called it "exciting news" for the country.
"And I think first and foremost it reflects the discipline and the commitment here in Minnesota and in many places across the country to protecting not only themselves, but their neighbors," Walz said.
State Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said she had mixed feelings about the move, noting that the state is fourth highest in the country in COVID-19 growth and having 61% of the population vaccinated "is not nearly enough" to hold back the virus.
The highlight of the new CDC guidance, Malcolm said, is that it shows the science is getting increasingly clear about the effectiveness of the vaccine in preventing the illness.
Malcolm said it would be impossible for the state to enforce a mask mandate solely for people who are not vaccinated.
The CDC guidance still calls for wearing masks in crowded indoor settings like buses, planes, hospitals, prisons and homeless shelters, but it will help clear the way for reopening workplaces, schools and other venues. It also removes the need for social distancing for those who are fully vaccinated.