Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and St. Paul's Melvin Carter lifted mask mandates for municipal buildings Thursday as the rate of COVID-19 infections in the Twin Cities continued its rapid decline.

"We continue to make policy decisions based on current data," Frey said in a statement. "Minneapolis is sustaining a downward trend in case and hospitalization rates, and the new CDC indicators reflect a low community level classification in Hennepin County. Thanks to the dedication of our employees, we've reached the necessary benchmarks to safely lift this requirement for our workforce and buildings."

The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board also said Thursday that masks — although still recommended — are no longer required in city park buildings.

On March 1, the seven-day rate of new cases in Minneapolis was 65.9 per 100,000 people. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which now advises that people can feel comfortable masking based on personal circumstances and preference, have reclassified Hennepin County's infection level as "low."

"We are entering a new, promising phase of our recovery," Carter said in a statement. "While we still have work to do, I'm glad we are in the place to safely wind down emergency masking measures."

Ramsey County's reported rate of new cases is 118 per 100,000 people, with a hospital admission rate of 6.1 per 100,000 and 5.9% of hospital beds occupied.

In August 2021, when the delta variant of the coronavirus was dominant, Frey issued an emergency regulation requiring face masks for all city employees and visitors entering city buildings. The emergence of the omicron variant was soon followed by strict vaccine or test mandates for bars and restaurants in both cities.

After omicron infections started to decline in January, Minneapolis and St. Paul began to lift vaccine and mask restrictions. The mayors lifted mask mandates for the general public at the end of February but left them in place for municipal buildings. On Thursday, they ended the last mask mandates in both cities.