In response to a surge in COVID-19 cases, the cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul have issued new mask mandates for places of public accommodation.
On Wednesday, January 5, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey announced Emergency Regulation 2022-1, which requires individuals ages 2 or older to mask in indoor places of public accommodation. The rule is effective today at 5:00 p.m. (CST).
A place of public accommodation is defined as a “business, or an educational, refreshment, entertainment, or recreation facility, or an institution of any kind . . . whose goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations are extended, offered, sold, or otherwise made available to the public.” Examples include retail stores, government buildings, stadiums, arenas, convention centers, service establishments, and educational institutions.
Under the regulation, any covered individual who is medically able to do so must wear a “medical grade mask or cloth face covering in accordance with [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] guidance” over their nose and mouth and in any indoor spaces of public accommodation, regardless of vaccination status. The only exception is for the purpose of eating and/or drinking. Medical-grade masks include N95, KN95, surgical, or other coverings that would be appropriate in a healthcare setting.
St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter issued Executive Order (EO) 2022-2, requiring anyone on city-controlled property and any business licensed by the city to require patrons to wear masks at all times when social distancing of at least six feet isn’t maintained, except when eating or drinking. The order also “strongly encourages” all businesses to continue to require all individuals to wear a face covering indoors at all times when social distancing of at least six feet isn’t maintained.
The order provides “all persons except young children at risk of suffocation and persons who cannot medically tolerate wearing a face covering” must don the masks. City-controlled property includes park facilities, libraries, and city offices and workplaces.
The directive is an extension of EO 2021-43, which mandated face coverings indoors at city-controlled facilities. The new order differs from the Minneapolis ordinance in that it defines face masks as including “manufactured or homemade cloth face coverings.” The coverings aren’t required to be medical-grade masks.
Most important, the Minneapolis regulation applies to all employers whose businesses are spaces of public accommodation. They must require employees to wear the masks—again, regardless of COVID-19 vaccination status.
Finally, athletes, performers, and supporting staff competing or performing at indoor spaces of public accommodation are not subject to the Minneapolis regulation.
A violation of the emergency regulation may result in the issuance of warning letters, administrative citations, and/or misdemeanor prosecution.
Mask up, Minneapolis and St. Paul!
Sara Gullickson McGrane is an attorney with Felhaber Larson in Minneapolis. You can reach her at email@example.com.