Starting Tuesday night, people will need to wear face masks or similar coverings when they enter Minneapolis businesses, schools and other indoor gathering places. The new requirement, ordered by Mayor Jacob Frey on Thursday, comes as the state prepares to relax some social distancing measures.
Who needs to wear a mask, and which types of face coverings meet the definition?
People who are over the age of 2 must wear a mask or similar face covering in most indoor locations where people gather. People can wear multiple types of masks — surgical, N95 or homemade — or other cloth items that cover the nose and mouth. This is similar to guidance from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which suggests that people 2 and older wear cloth face coverings "whenever people are in a community setting, especially in situations where you may be near people." Jason McDonald, a spokesman for the CDC's COVID-19 response, said they do not recommend face coverings for children under the age of 2 "because of concerns about suffocation."
Where should masks be worn?
Frey's order applies in "indoor spaces of public accommodation," defined as retail stores, government buildings, schools and recreation centers. It also includes "rental establishments," meaning hotels but not common areas of apartment and condominium buildings. Business owners must make sure their employees wear face coverings if they "have face-to-face contact with the public." The city previously issued a separate order that requires nursing home staff to wear masks, as well as residents, when they leave their rooms, if it is safe to do so.
When does this requirement begin and end?
The new mask requirements begin at 5 p.m. Tuesday. The rule does not have an end date. Frey said he envisions it remaining in place while the local state of emergency exists, but he could end it earlier, depending on how cases develop. Minneapolis' emergency runs concurrent with the state's — which is set to expire June 12 but could be extended.
Who will enforce this and how?
The city is asking people who spot potential violations to call 311. The city's Health Department will investigate complaints in food and lodging. The Department of Community Planning & Economic Development will investigate complaints in places selling tobacco and liquor. Police could investigate some as well. People who violate the new requirement could face a misdemeanor and a fine of up to $1,000. Businesses could also face action against their licenses. Businesses that want to challenge a citation can request an appeal, which would then be considered by an administrative law judge. People who get tickets for violating the mask order can use the same appeal process used for other misdemeanors. Frey has said the city will focus first on education and outreach before resorting to tougher penalties
Are there exceptions for people with medical conditions?
Yes. The order makes exceptions for people who aren't "able to medically tolerate a face covering." The mayor's office said Friday that includes people with breathing and respiratory problems. "We won't require people to have doctor's notes on them, but we trust staff to use their discretion if there's a question about medical exceptions," said spokesman Darwin Forsyth.
What should I do if I can't find a face covering?
People who need masks can contact the city by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the city's website at minneapolismn.gov/coronavirus/faqs#Masks. People can also call 311 or 612-673-3000.
Can businesses block people from entering their establishments if they're not wearing masks?
The mayor's office said Friday that it believed businesses could bar people without face coverings, even before the new regulation was issued. It noted that other rules allow businesses to refuse to serve people who aren't wearing shirts or shoes in certain circumstances. But, businesses won't be required to kick out customers without masks. "Businesses are certainly allowed to tell someone, a customer or otherwise, that is not wearing a mask that they are not welcome," Frey said. He encouraged business owners with questions to call 311.
How will mask requirements apply to bars, restaurants and other locations where people eat, when those places reopen?
It's complicated. Restaurants could begin reopening for on-site service on June 1 if they meet safety rules. When that happens, they will be limited to outdoor dining, takeout and delivery. Frey's new regulation, for now, only applies indoors. He said Friday that he does want to ensure that employees, such as cooks and people cleaning tables, are wearing face coverings. "Undoubtedly, we will have to be issuing some additional guidelines and recommendations when restaurants' indoors open up, if the regulation is still in effect then," he said.