Minneapolis, St. Paul, Duluth end masking orders for city buildings

Boxes of N95 masks sit in storage.
N95 masks sit stored in a medical supply area at the Austin Convention Center on Aug. 7, 2020 in Austin, Texas. The convention center was prepared for use as a field hospital for COVID-19 patients, if Austin hospitals were to become overwhelmed.
John Moore | Getty Images

Minneapolis, St. Paul and Duluth are ending mask requirements for city-owned facilities as COVID-19 case counts continue to trend downward in Minnesota.

Duluth lifted its face covering mandate for city buildings on Wednesday; Minneapolis and St. Paul ended their policies on Thursday.

All three cities had previously ended broader mask mandates for indoor public spaces but had held on to those rules for city facilities — until now.

"We are entering a new, promising phase of our recovery,” St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter said in a news release. “While we still have work to do, I’m glad we are in the place to safely wind down emergency masking measures.”

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Officials in all three cities said they made their decisions based on local and state COVID numbers, as well as guidance from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“We continue to make policy decisions based on current data,” Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey said in a news release. “Minneapolis is sustaining a downward trend in case and hospitalization rates, and the new CDC indicators reflect a low community level classification in Hennepin County. Thanks to the dedication of our employees, we’ve reached the necessary benchmarks to safely lift this requirement for our workforce and buildings.”

Minnesota is now averaging fewer than 700 new COVID cases a day — down from more than 3,000 a day in mid-February.

The average test positivity rate in Minnesota is around 3.3 percent, below the 5 percent level that health officials call concerning.