The Walz administration advised local school districts to consider mandating masks for all students and teachers regardless of vaccination status in a new guidance released Wednesday.
After more than 450 days, the Minnesota Legislature voted to end Gov. Tim Walz’s COVID-19 peacetime emergency declaration late last month. Because of this, the governor no longer has the power to mandate masks in schools, unless he declares another emergency.
“All students, teachers, staff, and visitors in school buildings should wear masks indoors regardless of vaccination status in order to protect those who cannot yet be vaccinated or who remain at higher risk because of immune-comprised status or other conditions,” the Minnesota Department of Health said in a Wednesday announcement.
This will leave the decision in the hands of local school districts, many of which are likely to follow the Walz administration’s guidance.
The guidance mirrors new recommendations issued Tuesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In a reversal, the CDC said all people in K-12 schools and counties with “high or substantial” transmission should wear masks — even if they’ve been vaccinated.
There are currently 13 counties in Minnesota with high or substantial transmission, according to a database maintained by the CDC.
“The Delta variant is proving to have an alarming ability to spread more easily, so it’s more important than ever that anyone eligible for vaccination get that protection as soon as possible, and follow the CDC’s guidance for continued masking, distancing and other prevention strategies to help avoid the widespread illnesses and community impacts we saw during the last school year,” Minnesota Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said Wednesday.
Just three weeks ago, the CDC said vaccinated teachers and students don’t need to wear masks.
Some Minnesota students said they experience “high anxiety” and feel “uncomfortable” and “scared” when wearing masks, according to a video released last month.