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Cloquet mask mandate expires Friday

The mask mandate implemented by Cloquet elected officials a month ago will be allowed to automatically expire on its planned end date of Friday, Feb. 18. The expiration was ensured when Tuesday’s Cloquet City Council meeting was canceled “because there was nothing that required council action,” said Cloquet mayor Roger Maki.

Maki said he implemented the original mandate — with the support of a majority of council members — because researchers at Mayo were predicting a surge in the Covid Omicron variant around Feb. 1 followed by a swift decline in case numbers.

“We were a little behind the rest of the state, but that’s pretty much how things have played out, with the steep rise and now a dramatic fall,” Maki said. “Obviously not everyone was in favor of the mandate, but I do think we got a decent amount of masking done and kept some people well that might not have been otherwise.”

The numbers appear to have followed the steep rise and equally steep fall over the mandate timeframe.

The week the mask mandate was implemented, the Minnesota Department of Health put the cumulative Covid case numbers for Carlton County at 6,667 in its Jan. 20 report, a rise of 261 positive cases from the week before. The following week, on Jan. 27, MDH put the Carlton County number at 7,292, an increase of 625 new cases. On Feb. 3, MDH reported 7,998 cumulative Covid cases, or 706 new cases. In the Feb. 10 report, total case numbers were 8,379 — an increase of 381 new cases. As of Tuesday, Feb. 15, MDH had reported an increase of 191 cases since the previous Thursday.

Maki said he got a very mixed response to the mask mandate from businesses and individuals: some felt it infringed on their personal liberties, and others thanked him for taking a stand.

Cloquet is not the only city to take a step back as the Omicron variant wanes. The Duluth mask mandate expired last Saturday; on Feb. 10 mayors in Minneapolis and St. Paul ended their order requiring proof of vaccination or a recent negative Covid test to enter public places serving food and drink. Minnesota Public Radio reported Feb. 11 that the number of patients in ICU statewide were at their lowest level since August.