From the County Manager Column from Aug. 3, 2021

New mask guidance goes into effect in our buildings

Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued new COVID-19 guidance following the alarming increase in infections among unvaccinated people due to the delta variant. Compared to many areas of the United States, our overall vaccination rate is strong - nonetheless many Minnesota counties have been identified by the CDC as "Substantial" or "High" for community transmission which is on the rise. Ramsey County is currently meeting the "Substantial" threshold. CDC recommends indoor masking for counties that meet the "Substantial" or "High" threshold to reduce the spread of infection.

Following a wide-ranging discussion at this morning's board meeting, in alignment with our existing face coverings policy, we will again require face coverings of employees and visitors in Ramsey County buildings and workspaces effective tomorrow, Aug. 4. Essentially, this re-institutes the guidance we operated under for many months through early June of this year.

More from Star Tribune: "Minnesota's COVID-19 case growth triggers federal indoor mask guideline for most metro counties

We will be adding this messaging clearly in multiple language to signs on building entrances and in other places - such as on ramseycounty.us, RamseyNet and social media as well.

This guidance will apply to most of our workspaces and locations - some locations that have had more restrictive measures around face coverings and PPE throughout the pandemic will continue to follow those protocols. 

In addition, the board and staff discussed additional measures that will be needed to fully keep employees and residents as safe as possible. Recognizing that vaccines are the most important tool to truly stopping the spread of deadly and serious COVID-19, these additional measures will likely include mandatory testing for unvaccinated employees, additional incentives for vaccinations and other potential measures to ensure that our workforce is vaccinated to protect each other and everyone that we serve. There are a host of details to be worked out in the days ahead, and per the board’s request, I will return next Tuesday with a proposal that will provide more clarity regarding an implementation approach and timeline. 

Watch the discussion

I fully acknowledge that these shifts back to face covering requirements are confusing, demoralizing and frustrating for many in our organization and our community. Please know that we're doing our best and remaining consistent in following expert public health guidance at the national, state and local levels to stop the spread of COVID-19 and its variants, while also balancing practical considerations and your concerns. It also fully underscores that now is the time to more fully push vaccination as the only tool at our disposal to move beyond our current churn, and I appreciate your support and understanding for why we must leverage all available tools to end the COVID-19 pandemic.

Having talked directly with many of you across the organization throughout these many months, I know how important it is to everyone that we all play our part in keeping each other and anyone visiting our buildings safe. I have great confidence that implementing this face covering requirement again for our employees and visitors in alignment with the CDC is both the safest and a practical way forward. I thank you for your perseverance, patience and for helping us reinforce this path forward and continuing to share your feedback and thoughts.