From the County Manager Column from May 18, 2021

New mask policy for Ramsey County buildings goes into effect May 19

Following the unanticipated announcements late last week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Gov.Tim Walz changing masking and social distancing recommendations and orders, our board of commissioners voted today to approve several revisions to our face coverings policy that will go into effect tomorrow – May 19, 2021.

The new federal and state guidance provides organizations, businesses and local governments with the authority and flexibility to maintain their own masking requirements. Based on the best public health guidance now available, we and other local governments - such as the cities of Saint Paul and Minneapolis - have decided to generally continue with masking and social distancing requirements at this time.

Vaccination is the primary tool to keep people as safe as possible. The rate of vaccination among residents remains the key metric for us, alongside the rate of infection. Although we are generally doing very well across Ramsey County, there are significant areas that remain well below target levels and substantial discrepancies across different areas of the county. Deputy County Manager of Health & Wellness and Public Health Director Kathy Hedin presented this information in depth this morning at the county board meeting. I urge you to take a few minutes to watch the video of the presentation and full discussion:

Watch the video

After thorough review of our county’s face coverings policy by Public Health, Human Resources, Property Management and Policy & Planning staff over the past few days, we recommended the following changes to the board of commissioners this morning:

  • Face coverings will no longer be required of staff and visitors while outdoors at county facilities.
  • Face coverings and social distancing will continue to be required of all visitors while indoors at Ramsey County facilities and of staff while indoors in a shared space with others. 
  • Staff working individually at their own workstation or office are no longer required to wear face coverings as long as they can maintain a distance of six feet or more from others.  
  • Staff are not required to wear face coverings when they are meeting with others in the same room while maintaining a distance of at least six feet apart.
  • Staff conducting business indoors at community sites will continue to be required to wear face coverings.

There is more detail in the complete policy which has been updated in our Administrative Policy Manual:

Read the revised COVID-19 Face Covering Policy

Of course, an employee may choose to wear a mask if preferred in any work setting. As we saw after the board passed the revised policy this morning, it will likely be common to see employees both wearing masks and not in different settings throughout our workdays.  

As we discussed at the board meeting this morning, I want to stress that we will continue monitoring the effects of the new guidance week-to-week and will adjust accordingly. We will continue close monitoring of vaccination and infection rates and other key public health measures. We all want to be at that place where masks are no longer needed, but we also need to remain safe – we’re very close to the finish line.

To that point, I want to again ask for your help in spreading the word that the vaccines are free, safe, effective and readily available at clinics Public Health and partners operate, pharmacies and health care providers. The approval of vaccination of adolescents (12 -15) last week has opened up an entire new group of our residents who can now safely get the vaccine. Please refer people to to schedule appointments and the latest updates.

Thank you for your flexibility and extending grace now and in the weeks ahead as we continue working through this pandemic day by day.