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Minnesota Opinion: No question, face masks will save lives

Summary: The more people who wear them, the better the odds we'll have in controlling this virus.

Minnesota Opinion editorial
Minnesota Opinion editorials
West Central Tribune graphic

When asked If she would require people to wear face masks if she were president, Dr. Priya Sampathkumar didn't equivocate.

"Yes."

Rochester PostBulletin reporter Matthew Stolle asked Sampathkumar, an infectious disease expert at Mayo Clinic, six questions concerning the efficacy of wearing a cloth mask to reduce COVID-19 infection. All of her answers are illuminating, but she saved the best for last.

"We don't know if 90% of the people wore a mask, what would happen to transmission dynamics. Or if 70% of the population wore a mask, what would happen," she said. "What we do know is that if an individual is infected and wears a mask — the cloth mask — the risk of transmission from that individual to other people is reduced by 50% to 70%. That's a powerful number."

And the numbers pile up.

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The Minnesota Medical Association and 20 other state medical societies recommend the adoption of face mask mandates.

“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 Dr. Keith Stelter, president of the association, which represents more than 10,000 physicians and physicians-in-training. "Like staying home when you are sick, covering your cough, practicing social distancing, and washing your hands, wearing a mask is an important part of the COVID-19 prevention toolbox that should be broadly adopted."

So, why, in the face of all these recommendations, do agencies, businesses and cities feel compelled to make masks a requirement? Wouldn't people simply wear them out of good conscience?

Many did.

But for some, wearing a mask became political, an example of government overreach and an affront to Americans' civil liberties. But Sampathkumar and her numbers don't lie. Wearing masks saves lives, and the more people who wear them, the better the odds we'll have in controlling this virus, which has killed 134 thousand Americans and for which there is no vaccine.

"If the city can achieve stronger compliance to masking by making it mandatory, Mayo Clinic supports the mayor and city council", said Dr. Jack O'Horo, an infectious disease specialist at Mayo.

On July 6, the Rochester City Council voted to require face coverings in indoor, public places until Sept. 4. Businesses that violate the order could face the loss of city licenses. Individuals who violate the order can be escorted out by police.

Rochester isn't the only Minnesota city mandating masks: Winona, Minneapolis, Edina, St. Paul, Blaine and Mankato have all taken similar steps.

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We get it, there’s been conflicting information released by the CDC on wearing a cloth mask and it’s effectiveness. We’ve seen maskless political leaders in close proximity to others, including President Trump, Vice President Pence, Gov. Walz and Sen. Klobuchar. If it turns out that, despite expert medical opinion, wearing a mask was ineffective in preventing the spread of the virus, what have you lost by wearing one?

So, do your bit to help protect the people around you. Wash your hands, cover your cough, stay home when you're sick, practice social distancing.

And wear a mask.

This editorial is the opinion of the Rochester PostBulletin's editorial board.

Related Topics: ROCHESTERMINNESOTA
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