MN officials back mask mandate amid spikes elsewhere

ST. PAUL (AP) — Health experts are urging Gov. Tim Walz to require people to wear masks in public statewide amid concerns that a spike in reported coronavirus cases elsewhere could happen in Minnesota.

Nationwide, the number of confirmed cases climbed to an all-time one-day high of more than 50,000 on Thursday, with the infection curve rising in 40 out of 50 states. The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.

Minnesota has seen an uptick in confirmed cases on a seven-day rolling average that has been driven in part by expanded testing. Hospitalization and death rates have been trending downward and there’s no definitive sign of a spike like other states are seeing.

But the Minnesota Department of Health on Thursday reported 13 new deaths from COVID-19, the highest daily figure since June 19 and only the second double-digit total since June 21. The department reported 500 new confirmed cases, up from 426 Wednesday. The new cases raised the state’s total for the pandemic to 37,210. The department said 274 people were hospitalized, up 14 from Wednesday. That total included 123 patients in intensive care, the lowest since May 2.

In southwest Minnesota, Lyon County recorded 305 positive cases, while Murray County is at 54, Yellow Medicine County 29 and Lincoln County 10

Governors in California, Kansas and Pennsylvania and several other states that are seeing rising COVID-19 numbers have mandated mask use statewide as a simple and effective step to slow the spread of the virus. Medical groups in Minnesota and the state Health Department are backing a mandate.

“It is our advice from the Health Department’s perspective that this is so important and so effective and the evidence has gotten more and more clear on this point,” Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm told reporters Wednesday. “We do recommend that it become a requirement at the statewide level.”

Walz said he’s watching the situation in Minnesota and elsewhere as he reevaluates what to do daily.

“Does our thinking change as we start to see these numbers in other states? Yes, absolutely, but we’re still looking at our own,” he said at a separate news conference Wednesday.


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