As promised earlier this week, Edina Mayor Jim Hovland has signed an executive order requiring people to wear masks inside public spaces beginning July 6.

The order, intended to slow the spread of COVID-19, requires that face coverings be worn in an “indoor space of public accommodation,” including retail establishments and city-owned buildings. Exemptions include Edina recreation facilities such as Braemar Ice Arena and Edinborough Park, where it is easier to follow social distancing guidelines.

The order makes Edina the third Minnesota city, after Minneapolis and St. Paul, to require masks in publicly accessible indoor spaces. Rochester this week enacted a policy requiring masks in city-owned facilities.

Signed July 1, the order will last three days once it goes into effect next week. The Edina City Council will consider extending the policy during a special meeting July 8. The council also discussed the mask policy during a special meeting July 29, when Councilmembers Mike Fischer and Kevin Staunton explicitly backed the prospect of Hovland's order, providing a majority in favor the mandate.

Hovland said he contemplated the order in light of popular demand. “We've had many folks in our community asking about this issue, concerned about it from a public health standpoint, and frankly, on both sides of the issue,” Hovland said July 29. Councilmembers said that of the many emails they received on the subject, those favoring a mask policy outweighed those against it by a two to one ratio.

The mayor's executive order states the policy is in line with widespread public health guidance, including an executive order from Gov. Tim Walz that strongly encourages masks in public settings where social distancing is difficult to maintain.

Face coverings are not viewed by public health experts as a replacement for other precautions such as social distancing and hand washing, but rather a force multiplier of those practices, the mayor's order notes. The order includes the reminder that masks are meant to be used as source control in preventing the transmission of COVID-19 to others, not to safeguard the user.

According to the mayor's order, employers shall require public-facing employees to wear masks unless physical barriers are in place or 6 feet of separation can be maintained.

The Edina mask policy includes several exceptions. Face coverings do not need to be worn by people who are eating or drinking, by children under the age 5, by those with medical conditions that make it difficult to breathe with a mask. Also exempted are people who are hard of hearing or deaf and those who care for or interact with them, and people who are unable to remove the mask without assistance.

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