Walz hints at new emergency order or return of masks

The CDC is expected to update its masking guidance Tuesday to recommend masks for fully-vaccinated people in COVID-19 hot spots.

Background: Minnesota Capitol building (Matthew Deery/Flickr). Left: Gov. Tim Walz/Minnesota Governor's Office.

In an appearance on WCCO Morning News Friday, Gov. Tim Walz said that he would need to declare another peacetime emergency to enact a statewide mask mandate but didn’t completely rule this out.

“I told my Republican colleagues — in the Senate, specifically — that we weren’t done with this and there needs to be tools to move quickly,” he said.

Walz was referring to his legislative budget negotiations with Senate Republicans, who successfully convinced the governor to drop his emergency powers a month ahead of schedule. But no reforms were passed to prevent Walz from simply declaring another emergency in response to new viral trends, like the delta variant.

In the interview, Gov. Walz urged Minnesotans who haven’t received the vaccine to do so, saying, “we got some folks hanging on the edge. If you’re undecided, get the dang vaccine now. That’s the fix.”

Sixty-five percent of Minnesotans 16 and older are already fully vaccinated and 68.4% have received at least one dose of the vaccine.

As far as a statewide mask mandate goes, Walz said he doesn’t “have the authority” since  his “executive powers ended.” He acknowledged that a new mask mandate could be a “bit controversial” but “maybe not anymore because people realize this delta variant is real, it’s coming back.”

Ultimately, Walz said the state will “follow CDC guidance.” The CDC is expected to update its masking guidance Tuesday to recommend masks for fully-vaccinated people in COVID-19 hot spots. The updated guidance will also reportedly require all K-12 students and staff to wear masks regardless of vaccination status.

Gov. Walz’s peacetime emergency ended July 1 after over 450 days. He only dropped the statewide mask mandate in mid-May after the CDC came forward saying masks were no longer needed for vaccinated Americans.

As of July 22, 75% of the new COVID-19 cases in Minnesota were linked to the delta variant, according to the Minnesota Department of Health. Just last month, COVID-19 hospitalizations in Minnesota dropped to 98, the lowest number in more than a year.

“This is going to start to hamper our economy,” Gov. Walz stated. “I’m worried that as it starts to spread, people get nervous about the State Fair, they get nervous about filling up the stadiums. Those are things we worked really hard for and we’re looking forward to.”

The COVID-19 lockdowns already killed an estimated 40% of small businesses in the United States.

A May 2021 study by the University of Louisville used CDC data to uncover that although “mandates induced greater mask compliance, [they] did not predict lower growth rates when community spread was low (minima) or high (maxima).”