ST. PAUL — Gov. Tim Walz on Tuesday, July 21, said he would announce this week whether he'll issue a mask mandate in Minnesota to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
At an unrelated news conference, the DFL governor said he would say Wednesday or Thursday what Minnesotans could expect in terms of a statewide requirement. The decision comes as cities around the state have enacted local mask mandates that require face coverings or masks indoors and spaces of public accommodation.
“You can expect an announcement in the next day or two,” Walz told reporters at the Capitol complex.
The governor and state health officials for more than a week have considered enacting a statewide masking requirement and have carefully monitored the number of Minnesotans confirmed positive for COVID-19 as compared to those tested for the illness.
And in an effort to build consensus on the plan and a separate proposal at the Capitol, Walz urged Republican state lawmakers to support him in bringing a mask mandate through the Legislature as part of their special session.
Lawmakers closed out the special session in the wee hours of Tuesday morning without adopting a mask requirement or passing other key priorities. And Republicans continued to voice their concerns about the governor issuing executive actions affecting the reopening of schools, businesses or posing other requirements to Minnesotans.
Walz said Minnesotans could expect a quicker path to normalcy amid the pandemic if they voluntarily donned face coverings or masks in public, especially indoors and where social distancing isn't possible. And he said he appreciated that President Donald Trump this week shared a photo of himself wearing a mask and said it was an act of patriotism to do so.
“The simplest thing we can do to get back in school, the simplest thing we can do to open up and make sure our businesses remain open like they are, and the simplest thing Republicans can do to make sure I don’t have to take executive actions around the pandemic is to wear a mask,” Walz said.
Another big decision for parents is set to be made public next week, Walz said. School officials, parents, teachers and students can expect the state to announce its guidelines for instruction during the 2020-2021 academic year. And he said the state was weighing how the state could be nimble in responding to possible cases of COVID-19 in schools without disrupting students' learning.
"Nobody wants kids back in schools more than me both as governor, as teacher and as parent. That is the best place for them to be," the governor said. "We're doing everything possible to get those kids back in that classroom, get them back there safely and, the key that I'm telling my team, is to be able to keep them there."
The Department of Education has asked school districts to prepare for three instructional options: in-person learning, distance-learning or a combination of the two. School district leaders and parents have asked for answers soon so they can begin preparing for the upcoming school year.