Lifting the mask mandate puts workers at risk


The Minnesota Department of Health released a statement on May 15, declaring that “there is no longer a statewide requirement to wear face coverings in most settings. However, other federal, state, or local laws may require face coverings in some settings, and businesses may set their own requirements.”

The statewide mask mandate in Minnesota expired on Friday, May 14,  following new guidance from the CDC that allows fully vaccinated individuals to stop wearing masks in most settings. But the decision leaves many frustrated and with questions regarding the safety of this decision.

Although unvaccinated people are still highly encouraged to wear a face mask whenever they are indoors or in public settings where social distancing is impossible, there’s no legal incentive to do so and very few other measures have been put in place to maintain social distancing.

While more than 20 states have chosen to keep mask mandates in place, at least for the time being, many are expected to reverse mandates in the coming weeks/months, despite rising cases in nearly all states that don’t have mandates in place.

Lifting the mandate disproportionately affects essential workers, especially workers in environments where they come into contact with many people (restaurant, retail, pharmacy). Throughout the pandemic, they have struggled to ensure that everyone remained masked and social distanced, and now that the mandate has expired, there is nothing in place to ensure their safety.

The mandate was lifted with no requirement to show proof of vaccination or other requirements, meaning that there is no way to know whether or not those unmasked around you are vaccinated. We are operating on an honor system where our health and safety is in the hands of those around us. And as workers come into contact with a higher number of individuals, they are at a higher risk of contracting or spreading Covid-19.

Until there is a safer way to ease up on COViD restrictions, Minnesota should reconsider its reversal of the mask mandate and ensure the safety of its essential workers.