MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — On Wednesday, Minnesota’s infectious disease director said if we don’t limit the spread now, Minnesota could end up with an outbreak like what has happened in southern states.

To help prevent that, Gov. Tim Walz announced that 4 million free masks will go to businesses across the state, though resistance remains present against his mask mandate.

The masks are being stored at Liberty Diversified’s Brooklyn Park warehouses until they can be distributed to Chamber of Commerce offices around the state.

“If you can get 90% to 95% mask compliance, you’re almost guaranteed of squashing this thing down,” Walz said. “What we think we are going to see out of the mask mandate, we should start to put a cap on this — where we are at — we are going to see that around the 10th of August.”

But in Greater Minnesota, where there are fewer COVID-19 cases and fewer deaths, there is more opposition to the mask mandate and concern about personal liberties.

RELATED: 681 Additional Cases, 9 Deaths Reported As State Nears 1 Million Completed Tests

Republican Rep. Dave Baker of Willmar owns Green Lake Cruises. Until today, his Facebook page had said if someone was not wearing a face mask on board they would not be questioned.

To avoid confusion, he’s changed the Facebook posts and he does offer free masks to anyone boarding.

“With the new mask mandate, we are encouraging them to follow it, but we are not going to be the mask police,” Baker said.

Walz will make his long-awaited announcement on reopening schools on Thursday, and he tipped his hand that masks are a part of that.

“There’s communities across this state that really, really want to see their children back in school, and to see them stay there, wear you mask, it’s the biggest thing we can do. Wear your mask,” Walz said.

Minnesota has seen an uptick in new daily cases in recent weeks, though not as steep as many other states. On Wednesday, health officials reported 681 new confirmed cases of the virus, slightly below the 14-day average, and nine new deaths.

Hospitalizations climbed back above 300, including 143 in intensive care, for the first time since late last month following a rise in cases in recent weeks.

Esme Murphy

Comments