Minnesota Governor Issues Mask Requirement

Joining the long list of states with mask mandates, on July 22, Minnesota Governor issued Executive Order 20-81, which requires people in Minnesota to wear a face covering in all public indoor spaces and businesses, and even some outdoor spaces, unless they are alone or otherwise qualify for an exemption or accommodation. The face covering requirement is intended to supplement, and not replace, other prevention efforts such as physical distancing and hand washing. This Executive Order is effective starting July 25, and it remains in effect until the peacetime emergency declared in Executive Order 20-01 ends or until cancelled by a proper authority.

Required Face Covering

Face coverings are required in all public indoor spaces and businesses, including when waiting outside to enter the public indoor space or business, as well as when riding on public transportation such as buses or trains, or in a taxi, ride-sharing vehicle, or vehicle that is being used for a business purpose. Businesses are allowed to require face coverings even if they are not otherwise required by Executive Order 20-81, and if they do, individuals present in those businesses, whether indoor or outdoor, are required to comply with the face covering rule.

While face coverings are generally not required outdoors, workers working outdoors in situations where physical distancing cannot be maintained must also wear a face covering.

 Temporary Removal

Face coverings may be temporarily removed when alone, such as when working in an office or cubicle with walls higher than face level, while eating or drinking, or while communicating with someone who is deaf or hard of hearing, or who has a medical condition, disability, or mental health condition that makes communication with that individual while wearing a mask difficult, provided physical distancing is observed in each situation.

Individuals may also temporarily remove their face coverings to verify identity for lawful purposes, such as when ordering an alcoholic beverage or entering certain events, or to receive a service—including a dental examination or procedure, medical examination or procedure, or personal care service–that cannot be performed or would be difficult to perform when the individual receiving the service is wearing a face covering.

Individuals participating in organized sports or indoor physical exercise where the level of exertion makes wearing a face covering difficult may temporarily remove face coverings. Physical distancing must be maintained in indoor exercise settings, such as gyms and fitness centers. Face coverings can be temporarily removed when testifying, speaking, singing, or performing in an indoor business or public indoor space, in situations or settings such as theaters, news conferences, courtroom proceedings, or lectures, provided that physical distancing is always maintained. Face shields should be considered as an alternative in such situations. Additionally, face coverings can be temporarily removed during practices or performances in an indoor business or indoor public space when a face covering cannot be used while playing a musical instrument, provided that physical distancing is always maintained.


Face Coverings

Paper, disposable, and cloth masks, scarves, and bandanas are among face coverings that comply with the new Order as long as they cover the nose and mouth completely. Mesh masks, or masks with openings, holes, visible gaps, or vents are among the designs that are not sufficient face coverings. Face shields may be an option for those who cannot tolerate masks, but should otherwise not be widely used. And while medical-grade masks are sufficient to comply with the Order, they should be reserved for those who work in health care or other occupation that requires such medical-grade personal protective equipment.



People who have medical or other health conditions, disabilities, or mental health, developmental, or behavioral needs that make it difficult to tolerate wearing a face covering may need to be accommodated with an alternative, such as a face shield. When wearing a face covering would create a safety hazard to the person or others as determined by local, state, or federal regulators or workplace safety guidelines, such covering is not required. Children under 5 are not required to wear a face covering.


Business Obligations

Businesses must require that everyone entering their premises, including workers, customers, and visitors, wear face coverings as required and take reasonable steps to enforce the requirement. Businesses must also update their Pandemic Preparedness and Response Plans to include the face covering requirements of Executive Order 20-81, inform their workers how their plan has been updated, and make the revised plan available to their workers. Businesses must post one or more signs that are visible to anyone entering the business, including workers, customers, and visitors, instructing them to wear face coverings.

 Of course, businesses are not required to enforce face covering requirements when it is unsafe to do so, and when possible, they shall provide accommodations to workers and customers who have a medical condition, mental health condition, or disability that makes it unreasonable for the person to wear a face covering. Accommodations could include permitting use of an alternate form of face covering—a face shield, for example—or providing service options that do not require a customer to enter the business.

 For more information about face coverings and the Executive Order, please see the Frequently Asked Questions About the Requirement to Wear Face Coverings. For industry-specific guidance, see Stay Safe Minnesota. For specific guidance related to child care, K-12 schools, and higher education institutions, see Masking Recommendations for Child Care and Schools: COVID-19, 2020-2021 Planning Guide for Schools (PDF), and Institutes of Higher Education (IHE): COVID-19.

 Please note this current global emergency and applicable laws, regulations, proposals, guidance, advice, and responses change rapidly. We strive to keep you up to date as much as possible, but this blog article is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice or opinion. Contact myHRcounsel with questions concerning specific facts and circumstances.