Cook County logo. WTIP file photo
WTIP file photo

To mask or not to mask? Cook County residents and businesses navigate new guidance

The lifting of the statewide mask mandate in Minnesota by Gov. Tim Walz earlier this month was welcomed by some community members in Cook County and along the North Shore, but the change also created confusion and concern for others.

There is no longer a statewide requirement to wear face coverings in most settings. However, other federal, state, or local laws may require face coverings in some settings, and businesses may set their own requirements, according to the Minnesota Department of Health.

Cook County Public Health Supervisor Grace Grinager talked with WTIP’s Joe Friedrichs during a live update May 24 about the local public health recommendations for wearing a mask in indoor settings at this time. In summary, Grinager said those who are fully vaccinated – meaning two weeks after they received the second dose – no longer need to wear a mask indoors and in most settings. Exceptions to not wearing a mask regardless of vaccination status include local schools and healthcare facilities, Grinager pointed out. For those who are not vaccinated, Grinager said the recommendation is to continue wearing a mask as they would still be at a higher risk of contracting and/or spreading the virus.

The honor system of who is vaccinated is a factor to consider at this time when it comes to recommendations from local, state and federal health officials, Grinager said. For her part, Grinager said she is still wearing a mask in most indoor public settings even though she is fully vaccinated. Doing so sets a good example for her young children who are not vaccinated against the new coronavirus that causes COVID-19, she said. With that in mind, even for those who are fully vaccinated, there is still personal choice to wear a mask in a local business that does not require them at this time.

“This really shouldn’t be about what other people think of you,” Grinager said. “It’s about our personal feelings about safety and comfort… Lifting the mask mandate doesn’t mean we can’t choose to wear a mask if we feel more comfortable and want to do that, or if we feel safer and want to do that.”

In related news, local public health officials, including Grinager, are reporting two known cases of Cook County residents who were fully vaccinated testing positive for COVID-19. In one such instance, a fully vaccinated individual was reportedly quite sick after testing positive. There are other news stories across Minnesota where vaccinated individuals still test positive. Health officials are calling these ‘breakthrough cases’ and they are rare. Grinager shares information about the local breakthrough cases and shares more information about the pandemic in the audio shared below.