Gov. Tim Walz is on the receiving end of a letter from the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA) that urges him and every governor in the U.S. to make wearing a face mask mandatory in stores and public spaces.
Numerous cities in Minnesota have passed ordinances to mandate masks indoors to help prevent transmission of COVID-19, but Minnesota is not among the dozen-plus states to make it mandatory statewide.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has long recommended masks be worn over a person's nose and mouth when anywhere where social distancing is difficult, namely at retail stores and pharmacies. But in Minnesota, the decision to require masks has been left to local and business leaders.
"We urge every governor to require consumers who are not incumbered by a medical condition to wear masks when shopping or in public spaces," the letter said, then citing recent outbreaks linked to bars, restaurants and house parties as reasons for concern.
"Retailers commend the governors who have chosen to lead on this issue by requiring citizens in their state to wear a mask, and we respectfully ask that those governors that haven't yet required masks in public to do so immediately," the letter said.
The RILA also wants a unified response about the mask issue nationwide to help prevent store employees from potential conflicts with customers who shop without a mask, in addition to having to break up disputes between customers that ignite because a mandatory rule isn't in place.
One such incident happened recently at a Costco in Florida, where a man who was confronted for not wearing a mask aggressively shouted and told the person holding a camera to "back off." Warning: Video contains NSFW language.
"States across the country are seeing #COVID19 cases surge – the easiest thing we can all do to keep Minnesota safe and keep our economy open? Wear. A. Mask," Gov. Walz tweeted July 5.
He's since petitioned a poll on Twitter, asking Minnesotans why they wear a mask, with the vast majority of more than 13,000 responses saying they do it to not only keep businesses open but to protect their neighbors and because it's the "right thing to do."
In late June, the Minnesota Medical Association (MMA) had more than 10,000 physicians sign a letter urging Walz to make mask-wearing mandatory in public indoor spaces.
“Statewide use of masks now in all indoor settings and on public transportation can help Minnesota avoid the resurgence of cases that is happening in many other states and avoid a backwards turn of the dial," said Keith Stelter, a medical doctor who presides as president of the MMA.
As of Tuesday, 23 states and Washington, D.C. have mandated masks in public spaces: California, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, Virginia, Washington and West Virginia.