Cities Have Authority to Make Local Mask Policies

May 18, 2021

Although the statewide mandate is now lifted, cities can still require masks within their jurisdictions.

With the new guidance on masks from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) — along with the lifting of the statewide mask mandate — city officials may be wondering if they can still require masks in their own cities.

New federal and state positions

The CDC announced new guidance on May 13 that people who are fully vaccinated for COVID-19 no longer need to wear masks or other face coverings when in public places. Gov. Tim Walz followed suit and removed the statewide mask mandate beginning May 14.

Unvaccinated people are encouraged to continue to wear masks, but there is not an executive order that requires it.

City authority to regulate

Cities and private businesses have the authority to require employees and visitors to their spaces to wear masks. Many cities enacted citywide mask mandates prior to the state requirement and those can stay in place or new ones can be enacted.

Citywide mask requirements should be enacted through ordinances created with the assistance of the city attorney. Requiring employees to wear masks should be done through a city policy.

Your city’s requirements should be shared with residents through the usual communication channels, such as the city website and newsletters. It is also a good idea to post notices about requirements at building entrances.

Businesses can create their own requirements for patrons, and they can be more restrictive than the city’s requirements.

Reasons for local mask mandate

Cities may want to consider having a mask mandate for their buildings to protect those who are unvaccinated. The change in CDC guidance reflects personal responsibility, but it can be hard to ensure your spaces are safe for employees and visitors.

The CDC suggests that local jurisdictions look at the COVID-19 vaccination and case rates in their own areas, and use those to make decisions about local policies. As of May 13, 61% of Minnesotans over age 16 have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

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