ROCHESTER, Minn. -- Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey issued an emergency regulation on Thursday, May 21 requiring the use of face masks on any person over the age of two who is medically able to wear a mask, while in stores, hotels, schools, government buildings and public places of commercial activity. It does not appear to include churches or houses of worship.
That said, it's a sweeping list of "places of public accommodation" that will grow to include customers who are not eating or drinking while at bars and restaurants, indoors or out, when they open their doors. The regulation will take effect Tuesday, May 26, and has no expiration date.
"With the state's recent decision to begin relaxing regulations," Frey said, "we decided that it's important that we right-size our approach for our outsized footprint in the state. We're the largest and densest city in the state. We have a responsibility to our neighbors to keep one another safe. We have a responsibility to the entire state to step up our efforts to prevent community spread."
Business owners are not required to supply masks to employees under the ordinance, but workers must wear masks. A violation of the regulation may be enforced by the issuance of "a warning letter(s), administration citation, and/or misdemeanor prosecution."
Though Minneapolis now has the first such regulation in the state, it joins a half-dozen coastal states and even more cities throughout the country that have required masking either when people cannot social distance in public or simply while in stores.
Frey described masking as a race equity issue, citing the fact that the outbreak has disproportionately affected communities of color, who make up 19% of the population, 35% of the cases and "a disproportionate share of essential frontline workers." Minneapolis anchors Hennepin County, which leads the state with 6,029 cases and 502 deaths from COVID-19.
Minneapolis businesses have a right under the regulation to refuse entry to those without a mask, and customers are encouraged to report businesses who are in violation by dialing 311. Frey said the city will approach enforcement of the regulation as an educational intervention, but suggested that deliberate violations will be met with sanction.
"Here's what we will be cracking down on," Frey said. "We will not be entertaining extreme selfishness, and flagrant disregard for the safety and health of our fellow Minneapolis residents."
Also on Thursday, 32 additional deaths from COVID-19 were reported by the Minnesota Department of Health, a new one-day record.
The state continues to approach early modeling projections that put the peak daily death rate at nearly 50 deaths a day. The illness is expected to peak sometime between late June and early August.
Goodhue, Dakota and Clay counties all lost one person to the virus. Two people died in Washington County. Anoka County lost four people to COVID-19, Ramsey County lost six, and 17 residents of Hennepin County were reported on Thursday as having succumbed to the illness.
Twenty eight of those lost, or 87%, were residents of long-term care.
The new deaths reported Thursday bring the total deaths in the state to 809. Health officials now believe the state will have lost 1,000 persons by the end of May.
The state recorded 539 new cases of coronavirus on Thursday out of 6,118 tests taken for the day, an 8% positive case rate.
A positive case rate is the percentage of tests that return positive out of daily tests taken, a ratio of close interest now that the state is functioning under conditions of full access to testing. The state has chosen a consistent positive case rate below 15% as part of its criteria for determining whether spread of the illness is under control.
Though all who have symptoms can now receive testing, health officials said Wednesday they are concerned people who need testing are not coming forward. The state plans to roll out mobile testing units in response, though have not set a date.
Just 173,556 Minnesotans have been tested so far. With a statewide population of 5.6 million, that comes out to 3% of the population. There are 18,200 laboratory-confirmed cases in Minnesota as of Thursday, but health officials believe that number to be an undercount.
A total of 566 people are hospitalized in the state with COVID-19 and patients in intensive care shot up by 17 to 229 on Thursday, tying its previous highest level.
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Minnesota Department of Health COVID-19 hotline: 651-201-3920.
COVID-19 discrimination hotline: 833-454-0148
Minnesota Department of Health COVID-19 website: Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) website.