The Minnesota Nurses Association is urging state and local lawmakers to make face coverings mandatory in public places, calling it a “necessary measure to protect the public and stave off a resurgence of the vicious COVID-19 virus that has ravaged this state.”
The union’s board of directors adopted a statement supporting a mask mandate July 2. The MNA represents 22,000 registered nurses in Minnesota and three surrounding states.
Some cities in Minnesota already have adopted mask ordinances. St. Paul requires people to wear face coverings when inside public facilities and businesses licensed by the city.
Gov. Tim Walz has said he is considering a statewide order.
Public health recommendations regarding masks have evolved as researchers continue to learn about the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19, particularly how it spreads from carriers who show no symptoms – or have yet to show symptoms – of the disease.
“Asymptomatic transmission is a significant concern in how rapidly and easily this virus can cause COVID-19,” the nurses’ statement said. “Mandatory use for those who can wear cloth face coverings, rather than only requiring symptomatic individuals to wear masks, may reduce asymptomatic transmission.”
The MNA’s statement stressed that face coverings are merely one piece of the broad public-health response necessary to combat the pandemic and safely reopen the economy. Simple cloth masks do not protect the wearer, but they may protect others by limiting the infectious particles the wearer releases into the air.
Masks are not a replacement, the union warned, for other measures that prevent the spread of COVID-19. Physical distancing requirements, workplace protections and policies ensuring workers who feel sick can stay home remain critical to protecting the public, nurses said. And cloth face coverings should not be used in health care settings.
“Nurses will continue to support physical distancing policies, including stay-at-home and shelter-in-place orders, as the most effective method for reducing the spread of infection,” the MNA said. “The decisions to protect the public must be made based on the ability to provide needed care, not to achieve profits or cost-savings.”