Q: Will the Red Wing Police Department enforce the new mask mandate? I have COPD, and have a difficult time breathing with a mask on.

A: I want to answer this question by quoting Gov. Tim Walz: "I want the police to hand out masks, not tickets." Executive Order No. 20-81 requires all Minnesotans ages 6 years and older to wear a face covering. Children ages 5 and under are exempt and those 2 years old and younger should never wear a face covering due to the risk of suffocation.

The Red Wing Police Department will give residents and visitors a facemask and encourage compliance rather than issuing a ticket, education over enforcement is desired. If compliance is not gained then the commissioner of Public Safety has directed law enforcement that violations are civil, not criminal. An individual who fails to comply with the executive order is subject to a petty misdemeanor citation and a fine of up to $100. Children under the age of 14 years old are exempt from citation/fines, as are students 14 and older when they are on the premises of a school or higher education institution in which they are enrolled.

The commissioner also stated, “that individuals are being instructed not to contact their local law enforcement agencies to report other individuals suspected of violating the EO,” and “It should also be reiterated within your communities that individuals should not confront those whom they suspect of a violation.”

The executive order does allow for the following exemption: Individuals with a medical condition, mental health condition, or disability that makes it unreasonable for the individual to maintain a face covering. This includes, but is not limited to, individuals who have a medical condition that compromises their ability to breathe, and individuals who are unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove a face covering without assistance.

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These individuals should consider using alternatives to face coverings, including clear face shields, and staying at home as much as possible. Governor's Executive Order 20-81: people in Minnesota are required to wear a face covering in all indoor businesses and public indoor spaces.

Businesses have heightened responsibility for public safety, given the volume of people that pass through Minnesota businesses on any given day. It is the Department of Employment and Economic Development's recommendation that businesses handle any customer refusing to wear a mask, as they would any other difficult customer. As such, businesses (and their owners and management) may be subject to criminal charges (up to a misdemeanor, $1,000 fine, and not more than 90 days in jail), civil enforcement and fines (of up to $25,000), and regulatory enforcement (e.g., actions by government authorities that license or regulate the business).

Face coverings can also pose special challenges for people who are deaf or hard of hearing or have other communication needs or disabilities. The executive order not only provides exemptions for people who are unable to wear a face-covering due to a medical or mental health condition or disability but also allows people without such conditions to temporarily remove their face covering while communicating with someone who is deaf or hard of hearing or who has a condition or disability that makes communication with that individual while wearing a face-covering difficult.

References

1. Executive order 20-81: mn.gov/governor/assets/EO%2020-81%20Final%20Filed_tcm1055-441323.pdf

2. Department of Public Safety’s Guidance to Local Law Enforcement Agencies Related to the Enforcement of Executive Order 20-81, dated July 22, 2020, John M. Harrington, Commissioner.

3. How to wear a mask: hwww.youtube.com/watch?v=_w2-p4MsAqU&feature=youtu.be

4. How to make a cloth face coverings: www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/how-to-make-cloth-face-covering.html

“Ask The Chief” allows readers access to useful information about law enforcement issues in Red Wing. This communication tool has been developed to enhance community policing efforts by providing residents and visitors with the opportunity to ask questions about local laws, programs and the department in general.

Submit your question to askthe.policechief@ci.red-wing.mn.us.

Generally one answer a week is posted RWPD social media sites and printed in the Red Wing Republican Eagle.