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Minnesota hospitals urge Gov. Tim Walz to mandate masks statewide

The MN Hospitals Association says there is a narrow window to slow the spread.

As a Minnesota mask mandate remains on the plate of Gov. Tim Walz, he is being urged to use executive powers and require masks statewide by those who work in hospitals and health clinics. 

The Minnesota Hospitals Association sent a letter to Walz on Friday, saying Minnesota "has a narrow window of time to act to slow the spread of COVID."

"Taking this action universally, rather than city by city or business by business, is important. If all Minnesotans double down and wear masks every time we are in public indoor places and outside when we cannot be physically distant from others, we can continue to flatten Minnesota’s curve and avoid the overwhelming hot spots and surges we are seeing in other states," the letter reads. 

While more than 20 states have statewide mask mandates, Minnesota does not and only a little more than a handful of cities have taken action to require masks, including Duluth, Edina, Excelsior, Minneapolis, Minnetonka, St. Paul, Rochester and Winona. Bloomington, St. Cloud and Wayzata are considering mask mandates.

According to KARE 11's Jennifer Austin, a decision from Walz could happen next week. 

"For five months, our health care heroes have come to work and suited up behind tight-fitting and hot PPE, including face masks. We know that asking Minnesotans to mask up in summer is hot, uncomfortable and unfamiliar. But this small act by every Minnesotan supports us and protects others while we navigate learning to live with this virus until there is a vaccine," the letter continues. 

"We want our kids to go back to school. We want our businesses open to support our economy. We want to safely do the activities that bring some normalcy to our lives. Masking up is how we can do this." 

The last part of the message above is akin to what Gov. Walz said during an appearance on WCCO Radio earlier this week when he said wearing a mask is "more effective than any lockdown that I can do or any of these other changes. It really makes a difference."

Earlier this week, leaders with the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) predicted that the number of patients in the hospital with COVID-19 will rise in the coming weeks, in addition to Minnesota State Epidemiologist Ruth Lynfield predicting rising deaths in the near future.

"We are starting to see an increase in hospitalizations and if Minnesota is similar to other states – they are now starting to see an increase in deaths – I am sad to say, but I do expect to see an increase in deaths in the coming weeks," said Dr. Lynfield. 

On Friday, the daily COVID-19 update from the MDH showed a slight rise in hospitalizations as the death toll since March rose by seven to 1,533. However, with 252 COVID-19 patients currently hospitalized (110 in ICU), it's nowhere near Minnesota's peak in late when when 606 coronavirus patients were in the hospital. 

You can read the entire letter to Walz here

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