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Walz to announce decision on statewide mask mandate this week

The simplest thing people can do to get kids back into schools and make sure businesses remain open is to wear a mask, Walz said.

Gov. Tim Walz could make a decision on a statewide mask mandate could come as soon as Wednesday.

At a press conference Tuesday, Walz said he wanted Republicans in the state legislature to help pass a bipartisan mask mandate, noting when its a bipartisan effort, mask usage tends to go up.

But that didn't happen during the special session, with the GOP seeking to bring an end to Walz's peacetime emergency and the executive power that comes with it.

"What I've been trying to do is just asking Republican legislators, 'Why don't we jump off this cliff together, why don't we do that?' They're not willing to do it, and that's one of the reasons why Chapter 12 is there," Walz said during a news conference. 

Even with Minnesota's largest cities and many businesses already requiring masks, Walz says businesses have said there needs to be a statewide mandate because they don't want to have to battle people coming in.

Walz said the simplest thing people can do to get kids back into schools and make sure businesses remain open is to wear a mask.

Walz said "thank goodness" the president tweeted Monday about how wearing masks is a patriotic thing to do. He also thanked businesses and mayors that have started requiring masks. 

"Getting people to buy into wearing the masks is what you're trying to do. The mandate is not to punish people – it's to put the emphasis behind doing that," Walz said. "And what I've said is if the president wears a mask, you will instantly see 10 percent of the public or more go up and do this.

"We know by the research that a mask mandate adds about 25 percent to this. When we have a mask mandate in a state that is controlled by one party and they do it, it goes up even more ... the most Republican state in the nation did it, and they saw their numbers go up."

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CDC encourages widespread mask use

At the start of the pandemic, state and federal health officials did not encourage people to wear homemade masks, but as scientists learned more about the novel coronavirus, their position on masks changed.

Now, the CDC and Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) recommend people wear masks when they're out in public – especially inside where physical distancing can be difficult to maintain.

The CDC last week said there is now evidence that face coverings, even homemade ones, prevent the spread of the virus, especially when used by everyone in a community.

“We are not defenseless against COVID-19,” CDC Director Dr. Robert R. Redfield said in a statement. “Cloth face coverings are one of the most powerful weapons we have to slow and stop the spread of the virus – particularly when used universally within a community setting. All Americans have a responsibility to protect themselves, their families, and their communities.”

The main protection people get from masking occurs when others in their communities also wear face coverings, the CDC says.

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