Vaccine Mandates Lifted in 2 Minnesota Cities As COVID Cases Wane

The Twin Cities of Minnesota announced that they will rescind their vaccine-or-test emergency protocols.

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and Saint Paul Mayor Melvin Carter made the joint announcement on February 10. The end of the program comes as cities and states around the country are beginning to drop their mask mandates, Newsweek has reported, leading to speculation that requirements regarding proof of vaccination will follow.

"While I encourage residents to continue to get vaccinated, wear masks, and practice social distancing while indoors," wrote Carter in a statement, "the sharp decline in cases and hospitalizations means we can safely lift the vaccine requirement in our city."

"That is a welcomed sign for Minneapolis, especially for the small businesses and restaurants that have shouldered the weight of this pandemic," said Frey in his own statement. "Let's hold the momentum and bring our city back in full by continuing to follow public health guidance and supporting local businesses."

According to the Minneapolis interim Health Commissioner Heidi Ritchie in an interview with the Star Tribune, the decision was made primarily due to dropping COVID cases in both cities.

"We felt like in the areas where there were people who were eating and drinking and they couldn't feasibly wear a mask, that vaccination was really the best way to keep everybody safe," she explained. "At this point with the transmission rates dropping the way that they are, the hospitalization rates not as precarious as they were, we're comfortable pulling that more invasive regulation backward."

Hennepin County, which includes an area of the Twin Cities, has housed the most COVID-19 infections in the state since the beginning of the pandemic. While the statistics for individual cities are unclear, around 287,957 cases were recorded in the county in the week ending on February 10, according to the state's Department of Health website. The vast majority of these cases did not require isolation or intense medical treatment.

The lifting of these protocols comes as governments around the country are beginning to rescind their mask mandates. New York, Illinois, Nevada, Delaware, New Jersey, and other states have all announced in recent days that they will begin phasing out mask mandates in their jurisdictions.

"We believe now is the right time to loosen a requirement that made a lot of sense last summer, when a different variant of COVID-19 was dominant and there was less community immunity," Contra Costa County health officer Dr. Ori Tzvieli said in a statement at the time.

Update 02/10/2022 at 4:50 p.m. EST: This story was updated to include comments from Melvin Carter, Jacob Frey, and Heidi Ritchie, as well as COVID-19 statistics in Minnesota. Previous COVID-19 reporting has also been included.

A COVID-19 vaccine record card
People in the Twin Cities area of Minnesota will no longer have to provide proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test to enter public spaces. Above, a COVID vaccine record card is seen at Florida Memorial University Vaccination Site in Miami Gardens, Florida, on April 14, 2021. Chandan Khanna/AFP via Getty Images