In an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz has issued a mask mandate that will impact businesses and individuals statewide. The Order, Emergency Executive Order 20-81, goes into effect at 11:59 p.m. on Friday, July 24, and it has four main parts. Generally, it spells out:
- When face coverings are required, when they may be temporarily removed, and when they are strongly encouraged.
- Special rules for Child care, preschool, kindergarten through grade 12 schools, and higher education institutions.
- Special rules for businesses.
- How the mandate will be enforced, including the potential for civil and criminal fines and other penalties.
The Order also defines “face covering” and a number of other key terms, and it describes a number of situations where face coverings are not required and individuals who are exempt from the mandate.
So, what does it all mean? Basically, start with the understanding that if you enter an indoor business or public indoor space (whether as a visitor, customer, or worker), or use public transportation, a taxi, or a ride sharing service in Minnesota, you must wear a face covering unless you are exempt or unless an exception applies.
Individuals with a medical condition, mental health condition, or disability that makes it unreasonable for them to maintain a face covering are exempt, as are children five years old or younger. Employees are exempt if wearing a mask would create a job hazard.
Face coverings may be removed in a number of circumstances, such as:
- When participating in organized sports in an indoor business or indoor public space while the level of exertion makes it difficult to wear a face covering.
- When exercising in an indoor business or public indoor space such as a gym or fitness center, while the level of exertion makes it difficult to wear a face covering, provided that social distancing is always maintained.
- When testifying or speaking at certain public meetings.
- While swimming or during other activities where the face covering may get wet.
Face coverings are not required, but are strongly encouraged in many settings, including during indoor or outdoor private social gatherings, when at home if infected with COVID-19, and at any outdoor business or public outdoor space when it is not possible to consistently maintain social distancing.
Parents, child care providers, educators, and students all need to pay particularly close attention to the rules for child care, preschool, kindergarten through grade 12 schools, and higher education institutions. Those rules are too detailed to be covered here, but they are clearly spelled out in paragraph 12 of the Order.
Businesses and government agencies have special obligations under the Order. For example, they must:
- Ensure workers are wearing face coverings as required by the Order.
- Include the face covering requirement in their COVID-19 Preparedness Plans.
- Post one or more signs that are visible to all persons—including workers, customers, and visitors—instructing them to wear face coverings as required by this Executive Order.
- Make reasonable efforts to enforce this order with respect to customers and visitors.
There are penalties for non-compliance. Any individual (except certain students) who willfully violates the Order can be ticketed and punished by a fine not to exceed $100.
The consequences for non-compliant businesses are far more serious. As stated in the Order, “Any business owner, manager, or supervisor who fails to comply with this Executive Order is guilty of a misdemeanor and upon conviction must be punished by a fine not to exceed $1,000, or by imprisonment for not more than 90 days.” Because of the potential criminal sanctions against individual owners, managers and supervisors, employers should educate and train them on the importance of following this Order. In addition, businesses that violate the Order could face a civil fine of up to $25,000.00 per occurrence.
This article is for general information purposes only and is not to be relied upon as legal advice. For legal advice regarding your specific situation, please consult with an attorney.