The politicization around masks is ''one of the worst things that’s happened'' in the U.S. and has ''cost lives,'' Minnesota Democratic Gov. Tim Walz said Thursday during a press conference outlining his plan to end most COVID-19 related restrictions by July 1, reports WCCO TV.
''I just want to note on this. The politicization around masks, I think history is going to write as one of the worst things that’s happened to this country,'' Walz said. ''I think it cost lives. I think it’s stupid. It’s the least intrusive thing we can do.''
Minnesota has had a statewide mask mandate in place since July 25. It requires people to always wear face coverings while indoors in public settings and businesses.
Walz has worked to end most of Minnesota’s coronavirus-related policies by incentivizing people to get vaccinated.
''If you don’t like the mask, then let’s get vaccinated,'' Walz said. ''I also put a date on it. We might not be to 70% (vaccinated) … I think we will be, say we’re not, we’re still removing that mandate because the number will be relatively close to that threshold.''
More than 2.6 million Minnesotans have been vaccinated.
Walz’s plan to end COVID-19 restrictions starts Friday with limits for outdoor dining, events and get-togethers removed. The mask requirement will also end for outdoors except for large venues with over 500 people.
The mandatory closing time of 11 p.m. for bars, restaurants and ''food and beverage service at other places of public accommodation'' will also end. The second phase of the plan is ending social distancing limits and capacity on May 28.
"There will be no new safety requirements for businesses, though they must maintain their plans to keep their employees and customers safe — as they have from the beginning of the pandemic — guided only by a minimal universal state guidance document," the governor's office said.
The third phase – ending the mask mandate – will happen when 70 percent of the state’s eligible population has received at least one dose of the vaccine. The state is on track to reach that benchmark by the end of June.
"Our nation-leading vaccination effort has put us in a strong position to safely transition toward life as we used to know it," Walz said.
"But from the State Fairgrounds to doctor's offices, to retrofitted Metro Transit buses that deliver vaccines where they're most needed, Minnesotans now have more opportunities than ever to get the vaccine when and where they want to. As cases recede, more people get vaccinated every day, and vaccines are readily available to all who want it, we can now confidently and safely set out our path back to normal."
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