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Walz signs order requiring Minnesotans to wear face masks

ST. PAUL — Gov. Tim Walz is requiring Minnesotans to wear face masks to try to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Walz signed an executive order Wednesday requiring Minnesotans to wear a face covering in indoor businesses and indoor public settings. The order takes effect Saturday.

Gov. Tim Walz

Walz said in a statement “there’s no better way to demonstrate our Minnesotan values than by wearing a mask.” So far, 30 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico have issued similar mandates.

People with a medical condition, mental health condition or disability that makes it unreasonable to maintain a face covering are exempt, as are children 5 and under. Violations are a petty misdemeanor carrying a fine of up to $100.

The Minnesota Hospital Association last week called on the governor to order masks statewide, but Republican legislative leaders have said it would be a mistake.

Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka criticized the idea of a mandate ahead of Walz’s announcement, calling it a “heavy-handed, broad approach that won’t work well for every situation.” In a statement, he noted that many counties have been only lightly affected by the coronavirus.

The Minnesota Department of Health on Wednesday reported 507 newly confirmed coronavirus cases, raising the state’s total to 47,961 since the pandemic began. Four new deaths were reported, increasing Minnesota’s death toll to 1,552.