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Minnesota health officials back statewide mask mandate in public

Associated Press
Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz, right, listens to Minnesota Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm as she provides an update on the state's response to the coronavirus pandemic, during a news conference in St. Paul, Minn.

Health experts are urging Gov. Tim Walz to require people to wear masks in public statewide amid concerns that the spike in coronavirus cases elsewhere could happen in Minnesota.

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."

While Minnesota has seen a slight uptick in confirmed cases, driven in part by expanded testing, hospitalization rates continue to fall and there's still no sign of a spike like other states are seeing. 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.