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Walz, U of M infectious disease and environmental health expert discuss wearing face masks

Brandi Powell
Updated: May 17, 2020 07:18 AM
Created: May 15, 2020 04:43 PM

Many people are wondering: does wearing a face mask make a difference?

"We have increasing data today to support that this virus is transmitted in a very big way by aerosols," Dr. Michael Osterholm, an infectious disease and environmental health expert with the University of Minnesota, said this week in a web seminar.

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Osterholm said only the N95 respirators are able to block those small aerosols because they fit tight to your face. He said all other masks don't.

"The surgical masks and the cloth masks we have today will surely stop you from getting big particles into your face ... But they don't stop the aerosols ... the virus is basically going right around the sides of these open gaps in the masks," Osterholm said.

Friday afternoon, Gov. Tim Walz said he doesn't foresee making a mandate on wearing face masks as more and more businesses are allowed to reopen.

"I think you should limit as many of those things it tries to mandate, both from a constitutional perspective and from the perspective of it's impossible to enforce that. We're not having the state patrol going on mask patrol," Walz said.

Walz described talking with the other seven Midwest governors this week. He said each state is doing things a little different, but they're working together, sharing best practices. Walz said he agrees with Mike DeWine, the Republican Governor of Ohio, who tried to require people to wear masks.

"When they mandated it, it didn't work. When they talked about this being about helping your neighbor and making it easier to open more things, they got a higher compliance rate," said Walz.

National and local health experts are stressing proper social distancing.

The Mayo Clinic said, "The CDC updated its guidance to recommend widespread use of simple cloth face coverings to help prevent transmission of COVID-19 by people who have the virus but don't know it."

"I think it's important to not count on the masks to be the final protection. It's going to be distancing," Osterholm said.

Metro Transit announced early Friday evening it's following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines and starting on Monday it'll require face coverings while riding buses and trains, unless you're a child under 2 years old or have trouble breathing.


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