MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — It’s been seven months since mask mandates were lifted in Minnesota, but now they are back in the state’s two biggest cities.

The mandates in Minneapolis and St. Paul went into effect Thursday. They are the only two cities in the state currently under mask mandates.

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In Minneapolis, the mandate covers all businesses, including bars, restaurants, museums, schools, and retail locations.

“We need to make sure that we’re protecting our neighbors from getting sick and potentially dying,” Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey said. “We need to make sure that we’ve got ICU beds that are available when people need them — whether that’s from a car accident or from disease.”

The mayors of both cities say that the mandates are needed to stop the spread of the Omicron variant.

Signs reminding customers to mask up were already up Thursday morning at Fairgrounds Craft Coffee and Tea in Minneapolis’ North Loop neighborhood.

“I did see the announcement yesterday, so I was prepared, I had my masks ready to go,” said Matt Boys, of St. Louis Park, who was at the coffee shop.

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In St. Paul, the mandate includes any licensed business where six feet of social distancing can’t be maintained. This includes any bars that serve alcohol, movie theaters or venues like the Xcel Energy Center.

Yum! Kitchen and Bakery opened its third location in St. Paul last month. Robbie Soskin, who runs the restaurants with his wife, says the mask mandates help workers, because it doesn’t put the onus on them to remind people to wear masks.

“Our guests have been super responsive and super helpful,” he said.

Fans going to see the Minnesota Wild or the Minnesota Vikings this weekend will need to mask up.

There are exceptions to the mandates, including for very young children and those who can’t wear masks due to medical reasons.

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People do not have to wear masks while drinking or eating.

Kate Raddatz