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Minneapolis, St. Paul restore mask mandates as virus spreads

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FILE PHOTO: Minneapolis skyline

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Minnesota’s two largest cities moved Wednesday to reimpose mask requirements in businesses and public places as the omicron variant of coronavirus spreads rapidly.

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter said the requirement would take effect in both cities at 5 p.m. Thursday.

“We have to keep our city healthy and moving,” Frey said in a prepared statement. “Wearing a mask is an obvious next step to do both.”

Minnesota reported 4,149 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday statewide, with 71 deaths. More than 10,600 people have died of the virus since the pandemic began.

On Tuesday, Gov. Tim Walz announced plans to open three more COVID-19 community testing sites as the omicron variant stresses the state’s testing capacity.

Minnesota had its deadliest month of the pandemic for 2021 in December, with 874 deaths reported. The state’s seven-day test positivity rate was 12% as of Dec. 27, the highest of the year.

Walz said he expected the surge in omicron cases to accelerate in coming weeks.

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