MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — While the mask mandate has ended in Minnesota, not everyone is ready to relax the rules. Some city and state leaders point to equity gaps in who has been vaccinated, and who is still at risk.

As people determine their own comfort level going sans masks, the cities of St. Paul and Minneapolis will keep their mask mandate in place. One reason the Minneapolis Health Commissioner noted Friday is how many demographics in Hennepin County fall below 50% vaccinated.

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“When we look inside the city of Minneapolis, we see some really significant disparities,” Minneapolis Health Commissioner Gretchen Musicant said.

The numbers show 71% of white people living in Minneapolis have received at least one dose. It falls to 35% for Hispanic people, and 28% of Black and African-Americans.

“It’s appalling,” Minneapolis City Council member Andrea Jenkins said.

“In many ways the question of how shall we proceed rests on a goal we have as a city to lead with the notion of equity and to protect our populations equitably,” Musicant said.

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The state’s vaccination numbers by race shows only White and Asian/Pacific Islander Minnesotans are above 50% vaccinated. Minnesota Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said she had mixed feelings about lifting the mask mandate.

“My ambivalence about this, or my concern, is that there’s still an awful lot of people in Minnesota who are not vaccinated,” Malcolm said.

Meanwhile, the state launched a partnership with health plans to improve vaccine access and equity, by focusing on reaching at-risk populations in specific areas.

“It’s helping to try to break down some of those barriers looking at things like transportation, if interpreter services are needed, knowing where near them they can have access to a vaccine, so I think the partnership will help,” state COVID-19 vaccine equity director Dr. Nathan Chomilo said.

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Malcolm says it’s important to keep in mind anyone under 12 does not have access to the vaccine. They, and others who are not fully vaccinated, should continue to wear masks.

Jennifer Mayerle