Medical groups calling for Gov. Walz to enact mask mandate as cases spike nationwide

July is only half over, but health experts say it’s already the worst month for coronavirus in the US, with more than 900,000 confirmed cases so far.

Hospitalizations are rising in 34 states; Minnesota is not one of them, but Wisconsin is.

Teams of military medics are deploying to California and Texas to help overwhelmed hospitals with COVID-19 patients.

Here in Minnesota, the push for a statewide mask mandate is growing. The Minnesota Hospital Association sent a letter to Gov. Tim Walz on Friday urging him to take action.

Where face masks are already required in Minnesota

“We’re seeing the cases tick up here in Minnesota,” said Dr. Rahul Koranne, Minnesota Hospital Association President and CEO. “We’re seeing the positivity rate go up here in the state. And as we look at some other states that are surrounding us, and in other parts of the country, we’re seeing increasing hospitalizations and deaths. We don’t want to have that in Minnesota. So in order to grab this narrowing window of opportunity, we’re calling on the governor to mandate masking in all indoor places, and all outdoor places when you cannot physically distance state-wide across the state.”

Data from Johns Hopkins University shows the daily number of new cases have returned to the levels recorded in May.

“This is the third straight day of case counts that have increased in this high 600 range, and now we are seeing some hospitalizations and ICU bed usage specifically. We had an increase of seven people in ICU yesterday,” said Jan Malcolm, Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner.

And this week in Minnesota, an average of 4.7 percent of tests are coming back positive.

“What we’re seeing in Minnesota as well as the rest of country is that the number of positive cases is increasing," said KSTP medical expert Dr. Archelle Georgiou. "The number of positive cases in the state is actually staying stable as is the death rate. But those are both lagging indicators to an elevated case right. So we have to watch that really carefully.

“Well, my stance on masks will always be evidence-based. And I can say that there isn’t a lot of great peer-reviewed definitive studies on masks. But the studies that are available — and there are 10 that were just reviewed — show that the exposure risk with masks on is 3%. The exposure risk without masks on is 17%. That’s a huge difference. Based on that science, I don’t like wearing masks either, but I would definitely wear one to protect myself.”

Minnesota hospitals ask Walz for statewide mask mandate

A mask mandate is something the governor’s office has been considering for a while.

On Friday, the governor’s office says they are "strongly considering" imposing a mandate next week.

Right now, because of the spike in numbers, Minnesota is one of 22 states on the list of travel restrictions to New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. It means if you go there, you must self-quarantine for 14 days when you arrive.