Frequently Asked Questions About the Requirement to Wear Face Coverings - Minnesota Dept. of Health
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Frequently Asked Questions About Wearing Face Coverings


Updated 5/20/2021

Research has shown that use of face coverings can greatly reduce the risk of COVID-19 infection when combined with other prevention efforts such as social distancing and hand hygiene.

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About face coverings

There is no longer a statewide requirement to wear face coverings in most settings. However, Minnesota's Safe Learning Plan, along with the existing face covering guidance for schools, remains in effect through the end of the 2020-2021 school year. In addition, face covering requirements and guidance for certain child care settings remains in effect through the earlier of June 30, 2021 or until 70% of Minnesotans aged 16+ receive at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. For more information, see the Schools and Child Care section below and Executive Orders from Governor Walz.

Certain settings may have specific federal, state, and/or local legal requirements that require face coverings.

  • For example, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) requires face coverings on buses, trains, trolleys, subways, ride-shares, maritime transportation, air travel, and other public transportation. Visit CDC: Requirement for Face Masks on Public Transportation Conveyances and at Transportation Hubs. In addition, health care settings – including long-term care – may be required by federal, state, and/or local regulatory authorities to require face coverings in certain situations.
  • Note that this is not an exclusive list of federal, state, or local face covering requirements. Be sure you understand your region and industry's legal requirements. Businesses that are uncertain about applicable requirements should seek legal advice.

Local authorities (such as a city, town, or county) are permitted to establish face covering requirements and those requirements must be followed.

Businesses and entities can also set their own face covering rules, and workers and customers may be legally required to follow those requirements.

The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) and CDC strongly recommend that anyone who is not fully vaccinated continue to wear face coverings indoors in businesses, public settings, and when around people from other households, as well as outdoors when social distancing cannot be maintained.

Regardless of vaccination status, face coverings are also strongly recommended in the following situations:

When wearing a face covering in these situations is impractical or impossible (for example, when eating or drinking, or when presenting or performing in situations where it is necessary for faces to be visible), it is particularly important to maintain social distancing of at least 6 feet from others, to the extent possible.

Yes, face coverings are NOT a substitute for social distancing as a measure for mitigating COVID-19 transmission.

The virus that causes COVID-19 is thought to be mostly spread by respiratory droplets released when people talk, cough, or sneeze. Many people with COVID-19 do not show any symptoms but can still spread the virus to others, especially those who have had prolonged close contact with another person. Additionally, people can be contagious before they show symptoms of COVID-19. Wearing a face covering when recommended by MDH and CDC will help to protect the people around you if you are infected and do not know it. Face coverings along with other measures like good hand hygiene and social distancing work together to slow the spread.

  • Types of face coverings can include a cloth mask, a neck gaiter, a scarf, a bandanna, or a religious face covering.
  • CDC recommends using two or more layers of tightly woven, washable, breathable fabric when making a cloth face covering. Tightly woven fabrics do not let light pass through but do allow air to pass through the fabric. Face coverings that are made of thinner, loosely woven, or single-layer fabric, such as certain types of masks, scarves, neck gaiters, or bandannas, may not be as effective for blocking droplets that come out when speaking, coughing, or sneezing and should not be used unless there are no alternatives.
  • A paper or disposable mask may provide some protection; however, more substantial face coverings are preferred, especially if maintaining social distancing is difficult or impossible.
  • A face covering must cover the nose and mouth completely and fit snugly against your face without gaps. The covering should not be overly tight or restrictive and should feel comfortable to wear.
  • For children 2 years and older, find a mask that is made for children to help ensure proper fit. Children under age 2 should NOT wear a mask.
  • If you wear glasses, find a mask that fits closely over your nose or one that has a nose wire to limit fogging.
  • Do NOT touch the mask when wearing it. If you often have to touch or adjust your mask, it does not fit you properly and you may need to find a different mask or make adjustments.
  • Any masks that incorporate a valve that is designed to facilitate easy exhaling, mesh masks, or masks with openings, holes, visible gaps in the design or material, or vents are NOT sufficient face coverings because they allow droplets to be released from the mask.

Refer to the following resources for additional guidance and tips on how to wear a face covering:

No. People wearing a face covering may possess a handgun under a legal permit to carry in the same manner as a person who is not wearing a face covering.

A wet face covering may interfere with breathing, so people should remove their face coverings when participating in activities (e.g., swimming) that will get a face covering wet. Businesses are also strongly discouraged from requiring face coverings during activities that will get a face covering wet.

In general, face coverings are safe and well tolerated during exercise. Consult with your health care provider if you are concerned about wearing a face covering during exercise. You can avoid discomfort by choosing a face covering that fits well and is designed for exercise or sports, and by taking some time to get used to wearing a face covering during exercise.

There are several risk factors associated with increased COVID-19 transmission. Whenever people are gathered, the risk of contracting COVID-19 increases if people are:

  • Not wearing face coverings.
  • In close contact with others repeatedly or for long durations of time.
  • In physical contact with others.
  • Gathered indoors or in an enclosed space.
  • Gathered in spaces where ventilation is poor.
  • Gathering with others for extended periods of time (e.g., through social networks involving athletes and sports teams, using locker rooms, sharing transportation to sports events, etc.).
  • Breathing heavily (increased force or frequency) during exercise, speaking, laughing, singing, cheering, or shouting.

Based on these principles, unvaccinated people should wear a face covering when exercising or playing in indoor settings with members of other households (e.g., in a gym or sports facility), exercising or playing in close contact outdoors with members of other households, or when spending extended periods of time with members of other households before, during, or after sports or exercise (e.g., team meetings, team dinners, or social activities).

Appropriate attire requirements are developed and enforced by the business and, in some instances, by law. Employees should speak with their employer and review the employer's COVID-19 preparedness plan as well as any employee handbook or applicable employer policy.

No, Executive Order 20-54 provides that an employer cannot discriminate or retaliate against a worker for wearing a face covering that the worker has personally acquired as long as the face covering does not violate industry standards or existing employer policies related to health, safety, or decency.

Schools and child care settings

Face coverings are generally required for all students, staff, and other people present in any public or private kindergarten through grade 12 school buildings or district offices during the instructional day, or when riding on school transportation vehicles to and from the instructional day. To provide a consistent, safe environment for students and staff, this requirement applies equally to kindergarteners, even those aged 5 or under. MDH and MDE also strongly recommend that all staff wear a face shield over their face coverings. For more information, including information about exemptions, situations where face shields can be worn as an alternative to a face covering, and situations where it is allowable to temporarily remove a face covering, please refer to Executive Orders from Governor Walz and COVID-19 Prevention Guidance for Summer School (PDF). Children under 2 years or anyone with a medical, developmental, or behavioral condition that makes it unreasonable to wear a face covering must not wear face coverings.

Because these settings serve children who are not yet eligible for vaccination, the following child care settings are required to comply with the face covering requirements of Executive Order 20-81: family and group day care homes (licensed under Minnesota Rules 2019, chapter 9502); child care centers (licensed under Minnesota Rules 2019, chapter 9503); certified centers (certified under Minnesota Statutes 2019, chapter 245H); legal non-licensed child care providers (defined under Minnesota Statutes 2019, section 119B, subdivision 16); certain license-exempt Head Start, public and private school programs (defined under Minnesota Statutes 2019, section 245A.03, subdivision 2 (a) (5), (13), and (26)); and other Head Start, preschool and pre-kindergarten programs serving children 5 years and under. Executive Order 20-81’s requirements are tailored to provide the flexibility needed by these settings and to address the challenges of requiring face coverings in the child care environment. In general, either a face covering or face shield is required for all staff in child care settings when in communal areas, hallways or lobbies. When isolated in a classroom or home care environment with one group or cohort, face coverings are strongly recommended, but not required. Children 5 years and under are exempt from the face covering requirement, and a child care setting that serves children under age 5 may choose to exempt older children by fulfilling specific requirements (i.e., written notice to all families and documentation in COVID-19 preparedness plans). For additional requirements, guidance, and information, please refer to the executive orders at Executive Orders from Governor Walz and Masking Requirements for Child Care and Schools and Child Care: COVID-19.

Updated Tuesday, 15-Jun-2021 12:14:03 CDT