Minnesota Hospital Association asks Walz to order statewide mask mandate: 'We have a narrow window of time'

The Minnesota Hospital Association sent a letter to Gov. Tim Walz Thursday asking him to mandate mask wearing statewide to slow the spread of COVID-19 and avoid the surge in cases and hospitalizations that is hitting other states. 

“We have a narrow window of time to slow the spread of the virus, so we are asking you to mandate the wearing of face masks statewide as soon as possible,” the letter read. 

MHA says “widespread, timely testing” remains a challenge, which making masking an “even more important tool.” 

The letter comes as Walz says he is still deciding whether to order a statewide mask mandate. On Thursday, he told reporters, “We’re still talking about” requiring everyone to wear masks, saying a 5 percent positivity rate is a key threshold in his decision making. 

Minnesota reported a positivity rate of 4.1 percent on Thursday. 

A number of cities have already issued their own mask requirement, including Minneapolis, St. Paul and major retailers like Target and Best Buy are starting to require customers to wear masks while shopping in their stores. However, MHA says mandating masks statewide, rather than city by city or business by business is important in keeping Minnesota’s case count down. 

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“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,” MHA said in its letter to the governor. 

MHA ended its letter with: “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 letter ends. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says face masks or face coverings can prevent people who are infected with COVID-19 from spreading the virus to others. The CDC recommends people wear face masks or face coverings in public settings when around people outside their household, especially when other social distancing measures are hard to maintain.