On Wednesday, January 5, 2022, Mayor Jacob Frey of Minneapolis and Mayor Melvin Carter of St. Paul, Minnesota, issued indoor mask mandates for their cities due to the rapid spread of the COVID-19 Omicron variant, which currently accounts for approximately 68 percent of cases in Minnesota (and rising).
Minneapolis Emergency Regulation No. 2022-01
The Minneapolis mask mandate generally provides in relevant part:
any individual who is over age two and able to medically tolerate a face covering shall be required to cover their nose and mouth with a medical-grade mask or cloth face covering in accordance with [U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] CDC guidance when in indoor spaces of public accommodation regardless of vaccination status, except for the purposes of eating and/or drinking.
For employers, the mask mandate specifically states: “[a]ll employers of businesses that are spaces of public accommodation as defined by this Order shall require their employees, regardless of vaccination status, to wear a medical-grade mask or cloth face covering whenever such employees have face-to-face contact with the public.” The order defines “a space of public accommodation” broadly as “a business, or an educational, refreshment, entertainment, or recreation facility, or an institution of any kind, whether licensed or not, whose goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations are extended, offered, sold, or otherwise made available to the public.”
The window of compliance is short as the takes effect on Thursday, January 6, 2022, at 5:00 p.m.
Violations of the order “may be enforced by the issuance of warning letter(s), administrative citation to City-licensed businesses, and/or misdemeanor prosecution.”
St. Paul Executive Order 2022-2
The St. Paul mask mandate provides, “Individuals at City-Controlled Property: Must wear a face covering indoors at all times when social distancing of at least 6 feet is not maintained.” The mandate defines “city-controlled property” to include “… park facilities, libraries, and City offices and workplaces.” To other businesses, the mask mandate states: “Businesses Licensed by the City of Saint Paul: Must require all individuals to wear a face covering indoors at all times when social distancing of at least 6 feet is not maintained, except for temporary removal of face covering when eating or drinking.” Lastly, the mask mandate provides, “All businesses: Strongly encouraged to continue to require that all individuals wear a face covering indoors at all times when social distancing of at least 6 feet is not maintained.”
The St. Paul mask mandate also has a short window for compliance since it also takes effect on Thursday, January 6, 2022, at 5:00 p.m.
Like the Minneapolis one, the St. Paul mask mandate has an enforcement provision, which states: “Any business licensed by the City of Saint Paul found in violation of this requirement may face adverse licensing action and penalties under Chapter 310 of the Saint Paul Legislative Code.”
Given the short window of compliance, businesses may want to review the mandates and consider their applicability to their workplaces. Both mandates appear to exclude individuals who are not able to medically tolerate face masks, so businesses may want to prepare for an increase in medical accommodation requests from employees and customers.
Ogletree Deakins will continue to monitor and report on developments with respect to the COVID-19 pandemic and will post updates in the firm’s Coronavirus (COVID-19) Resource Center as additional information becomes available. Important information for employers is also available via the firm’s webinar and podcast programs.