Minnesotans required to comply with mask mandate

Danae Milbrandt
Even the staff of the Montevideo American-News wear masks! They normally practice social distancing, but made an exception for the sake of this stunning photo. Pictured in front, from left, are: Helene Kelley, Janell Sjurseth, and Samantha Godfrey. In back are Mike Milbrandt, Lynsee Lauritsen and Danae Milbrandt.

On Friday, July 24, Governor Tim Walz issued Executive Order 20-81, requiring Minnesotans to wear face coverings in certain settings to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

In the order, Governor Walz stated, “Although Minnesota had experienced a brief period of stable or decreasing numbers in COVID-19 cases, in the past week we have seen our cases begin to increase, with the largest single-day increase in cases in seven weeks reported on July 20, 2020.”

Due to the recent, rapid increase of cases, the order requires the use of face masks or coverings in indoor businesses or public settings, as well as outdoors when social distancing is not possible.

“When leaving home, Minnesotans are strongly encouraged to have a face covering with them at all times to be prepared to comply with the requirements of this Executive Order,” Walz stated.

The face covering, according to the order, must cover the nose and mouth completely, and can include a paper or disposable face mask, a cloth face mask, a scarf, bandana, neck gaiter, or religious face covering.

Within the order the governor also states instances where masks and coverings are mandatory. These include: indoor businesses/public spaces; public transportation such as taxis or ride-sharing vehicles; and for those working outdoors when social distancing cannot be maintained.

When applicable, some instances may require face shields either in addition to, or as an alternative to masks or covers.

According to the Executive Order, there are exemptions to the mandate, which include, “Individuals with a medical condition, mental health condition, or disability that makes it unreasonable for the individual to maintain a face covering.”

This includes medical conditions that cause an inability to breathe, or for individuals that are unconscious, incapacitated, or are unable to remove a covering without assistance. These individuals, according to the order, should use alternatives such as clear face shields and staying home as much as possible.

If needed, businesses will provide accommodations to those with a condition that prevents them from using a mask, such as permitting a face shield, or providing service options that do not require a customer to enter the business. In addition, businesses may not require customers to provide proof of a medical or mental health condition, or disability to attain those services.

Children ages five and younger are also exempt, and children ages two and under should not wear masks or covers due to the risk of suffocation.

As stated by Walz, face coverings may be temporarily removed if a circumstance falls under any of these conditions:

• when participating in organized sports;

• when exercising in a gym or fitness center where the level of exertion makes it difficult to wear a mask, provided social distancing is maintained;

• during practices or performances where masks are impractical;

• during activities such as swimming or showering;

• while eating or drinking in a public space, while practicing social distancing;

• when asked to remove mask to verify identity;

• while communicating with individuals with a hearing disability or mental health condition that makes communication difficult, provided social distancing is being maintained;

• while receiving a service that cannot be performed while wearing a mask, such as a dental exam/procedure or a medical exam/procedure/personal care service;

• when an individual is alone in an office, room, or cubicle with walls that are higher than face level, while social distancing is being maintained. Situations where masks or covers are strongly encouraged, include:

• indoor or outdoor private social gatherings where it is difficult to maintain social distancing, such as visiting a private home with friends or relatives;

• riding in a vehicle with people who do not reside in the same household;

• participating as an athlete in sporting events where social distancing isn’t maintained.

Kindergarten through grade 12 students, as well as teachers and staff are expected to comply with face coverings, with face shields being used as an alternative for students who are unable to tolerate coverings/masks due to a developmental, behavioral, or medical condition, or teachers when a mask would impede the educational process.

Teachers may remove masks when they are alone in an enclosed work area, and students and staff may temporarily remove coverings when engaged in physical activity; while eating or drinking; during practices/performances involving singing/acting/public speaking/playing instruments; to verify identity, when communicating with someone with a hearing disability; while swimming or showering; or while receiving a medical service that cannot be performed otherwise.

Students and staff in higher education must comply with this order as well, and may substitute face shields as an alternative in the following situations: when teaching a class where the face must be seen, such as language or communication; where a mask would pose a hazard such as in a laboratory; and when faculty are providing a service where a mask would impede that service.

Executive Order 20-81 also states that businesses are to update their COVID-19 Preparedness Plans to include face mask requirements, which are to be available to all workers, customers, and visitors.

“In conjunction with this order,” said Tesa Siverhus-Maus of the Montevideo Chamber of Commerce, “the Chamber is receiving a limited quantity of disposable face masks. These should arrive after the 27th of July, and once the masks are in, a date to distribute will be set up with interested businesses.”

She continued, “What we would ask is that businesses that are interested in obtaining some of these masks contact us to gauge interest and coordinate distribution of said disposable masks.”

Those interested in obtaining masks can contact Alek Schulz at (320) 269-6575, or Tesa at (320) 269-5527.

Also included within the Executive Order is that individuals found in violation can be fined up to $100, with exception to children 14 and under, or students 14 and older who are enrolled in school or higher education.

Businesses who fail to comply can be fined up to $1,000, or imprisonment up to 90 days.

The Montevideo Police Department is encouraging individuals to wear masks, and have masks ready to give to those who do not have one.

“We are not actively enforcing by means of citations, arrests, or shutting businesses down,” said Montevideo Police Chief Ken Schule.

Schule said that violations are civil and would be issued from the state, not the MPD. Therefore, if a business asks an individual to put on a mask and they refuse to do so as well as refuse to leave, if MPD gets called the individual could be arrested for trespassing.

“The bottom line is that we are not chasing down individuals without masks, we are trying to get people to comply by education and providing masks if needed,” Schule said.