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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Minnesota is still dealing with its own shortage of masks, and more people are starting to wear them because of new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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As Minnesotans venture out to grab essentials or just some fresh air, more and more of them are masking up, including Minneapolis resident Kevin Ha.

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“Right now I’m delivering, I’m doing some food deliveries and so I’m just wearing this kind of for my protection, for the customer’s protection,” Ha said.

But the overwhelming majority are not wearing them in public. It’s only a recommendation from the CDC, not a requirement. Healthcare workers, however don’t have much of a choice, nor do they have much of a supply, according to Minnesota Nurses Association President Mary Turner.

“We’re not using [a N95 respirator mask] for one shift, we’re using it for multiple shifts,” Turner said.

3M’s N95 respirator mask is what healthcare workers need if they’re treating COVID-19 patients.

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The Minnesota Department of Health’s website shows the state has 341,000 N95 masks, and is awaiting the delivery of 1.6 million more.

“These numbers may sound really glorious, but they’re not,” Turner said.

At the very least, Turner says hospitals can now request from the state’s supply. The state also gives out surgical masks, but says it has zero inventory while awaiting a delivery of three million more.

Turner says those masks, while not as effective is stopping the transmission of COVID-19, are now being worn by everyone in hospital settings as a precaution.

“I would be very alarmed if we’re already out of the surgical masks,” Turner said.

WCCO reached out to MDH for clarification on those numbers, especially the lack of surgical masks, but did not hear back.

State health officials also want to remind people that if you are sick, you need to stay home. They don’t want sick people wearing a mask and going out in public.

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A spokesperson for the MNA also wanted to remind people people need to cover their mouth and nose when wearing a mask, not just their mouth.

Jeff Wagner