By David Schuman

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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Gov. Tim Walz encouraged Minnesotans Thursday to wear masks when out in public.

Dr. Greg Siwek, an infectious disease physician at Regions Hospital in St. Paul, says people who wear face masks are helping prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Siwek spoke to WCCO about the risk of asymptomatic spread.

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“You can have the infection without knowing,” Siwek said. “You can spread it to other people while you’re feeling perfectly normal.”

Masks covering the mouth and nose can stop transmission of the virus through the air. Siwek says it usually happens within six feet of a person.

“The likelihood of spread is much more when you’re in an enclosed space and very close to people,” he said. “I think the likelihood of spread is much less when you’re out walking on a trail, out in nature. It’s very hard for the virus to spread that way.”

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He said it’s still important to try to wear a mask outside anyway. Siwek says the virus won’t float in the air and linger after a person’s gone, but it can live on surfaces for three days.

He gave a few pointers too about how to care for the masks to ensure they’re effective. He advises people to handle masks by the straps, because touching either side can contaminate them. If the mask does get soiled, like with a cough or sneeze, wash it.

He added cloth surgical masks cannot be washed.

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David Schuman