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We are all in this together — put a face mask on

Like everything else these days, wearing face masks in public has become controversial and divisive.

An unscientific poll conducted on marshallindependent.com highlights this division among our readers. The question: Do you wear a mask when you go to the grocery store? As of Monday, 52% registered yes and 48% casted a “no” vote.

And it’s not just a rural Minnesota issue. A Minneapolis Star Tribune editorial that was published on Monday’s Independent editorial page under “Other Views” stated some observations made at a Minneapolis area Menards store more than a week ago.

“The parking lot was packed, most shoppers were not wearing masks, and most seemed oblivious to social distancing recommendations as they leisurely strolled through the store, often in proximity to other customers,” the editorial writer stated.

Here’s what we know about wearing face masks:

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises Americans to wear face coverings in public. The CDC makes this recommendation after recent studies suggest that asymptomatic individuals, or people who do not show COVID-19 symptoms, but have the disease, can transmit the virus to others. Also according to the CDC, this means people who feel fine can spread the coronavirus to others in close proximity by speaking, coughing and sneezing. Face coverings should be worn in public settings, such as grocery stores and pharmacies. The CDC states that this is especially important in communities with significant transmission.

The reality of how COVID-19 is spread has sparked different responses from large box stores that are deemed essential and allowed to stay open. Some retail companies are requiring their employees to wear masks and have set up plexiglass partitions at the checkout stations. Recently, Menards went a step further by implementing a new policy:

“Due to COVID-19, we are requiring all guests to wear a mask or face covering while shopping in our stores. If you do not have a mask or face covering, we have masks available for purchase. Thank you for your cooperation and efforts to keep our guests and†team†members safe.”

While most shoppers may appreciate the new policy, we assume others walked out of the store when informed of it. That’s their right. However, it’s also Menards’ right to protect their employees who put themselves at risk everyday when they show up for work. It’s also Menards’ right to protect their guest shoppers.

Yes, individuals have rights to choose. But there is also something to be said about being responsible. More and more companies and business groups are recognizing this.

Last week, after Gov. Tim Walz announced some easing of the stay-at-home order, The Minnesota Chamber offered support in a public statement.

“Easing Minnesota’s stay-at-home order for retailers is a step in the right direction,” said Minnesota Chamber President Doug Loon. “Businesses throughout the state are preparing to fully return to work and taking steps to do so responsibly and expeditiously. We urge the governor to continue to recognize that businesses can — and have — designed plans for safe work environments and allow more businesses to return to work soon.”

With no end in sight of completely eliminating the threat of COVID-19, providing safe work environments will be one of the key factors for Americans to get back to work, shop at their favorite retail stores, get hair cuts, go out to eat, etc.

Wearing a mask in crowded venues is a small price to pay to protect yourself, loved ones and neighbors. And it’s the responsible thing to do.

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