This week I have received an avalanche of emails and phone messages in opposition to a bill (HF 604) authored exclusively by House Democrats that would establish permanent criminal penalties for not wearing a mask in various public situations.
Please be assured I do not support this sledgehammer approach. This misguided effort only serves to further increase the stress our communities are already under. I believe cooler heads will prevail, the bill was laid over in committee - where it should stay.
Rather than reduce the governor’s plethora of emergency orders this effort would put the current mask mandate into state criminal code and cedes state authority in this area to the federal government. Penalties on individuals includes up to a $100 fine. Children and students when in school would be exempt.
Business owners, managers, and supervisors would be guilty of a misdemeanor for not complying or implementing the requirements. Punishment could include a $1,000 fine and 90 days in jail. Additionally, the business could be subject a civil penalty of $25,000 per occurrence and loss licenses associated with the business.
A better use of our time would have been debating and voting on HF 1051 which would put the decisions to bring our children back into the classroom more squarely into the hands of parents and local school boards. Unfortunately, the House majority blocked a motion to bring that bill forward to the floor for debate and a vote.
On a more positive note, as I pen this update the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) website indicates that over 1 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been received in Minnesota and 71.9 percent has been administered to residents.
The website indicates 18.2 percent residents in Aitkin County have received at least one dose and in Crow Wing County 13.3 percent of residents have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine. The percentage of residents receiving at least one dose among the 87 counties ranges between 32 to 8.6 percent.
We continue to make progress. The ability to provide vaccinations remains limited by the amount of vaccine produced each week. That availability should improve as a third vaccine is under review and may be approved by the end of this month. For info on where vaccinations may be available visit this link.